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The Agile Project Manager: Viewing Risk Through a Different Lens

Agile project managers may dance to the beat of a different drum, but they face a lot of the same challenges as traditional project managers. However, that's essentially where the similarities end between the two. This post by Bob Galen examines what risk management looks like through an agile project manager's lens. For example, traditional risk management is project manager based and in agile it's team based ““ since the team will be the first ones to encounter the risk, they'll be the first to respond, rather than a project manager who plans and analyzes the impact of risks. Another difference comes in balancing rework:

One of the most important aspects of agile risk management is effectively balancing your rework. This is one of the key indicators that your agile project is being run well or running off the rails. Agile teams have a tendency to either sprint too early, before they fully understand what they're about to build, or they sprint too late, as they over-analyze the work.

Agile speed is a rework balancing act. If you have zero rework, then you're playing it too safe. You analyzing everything in advance and taking no risk. For example, you deliver a fully operational messaging framework component for use without ever having sent a message through it. This is sort of that BDUF (Big Design Up Front) waterfall-esque approach to architecture. It appears less risky, but it isn't. You've just delayed your information gathering on how well your strategy works.

Galen notes near the end of his post that one can't simply throw out all of the traditional methods of risk management in favor of an agile approach. Rather, he promotes the idea of using some of the best from traditional risk management even if you are a diehard agile project manager. If you're got a big project on the way, it's worth it to determine the top risks that may occur””just so long as you don't waste too much time doing that, Galen says.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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