Adhering to the iron triangle is not the goal

Most of the managers in the large traditional companies I coach are overly concerned with the project management triangle (aka iron triangle) and its three sides of “scope/functionality”, “time/schedule”, and “cost/budget”. Decision making by-and-large revolves around these three and often the organization sets unrealistic goals for the iron triangle. However, what they fail to realize is that these are only constraints on the delivery of quality product and not the real objectives per se.

Sadly, rarely discussed are the real objectives: providing Value (by releasing product increments frequently) and ensuring Quality (product released is reliable, adaptable, usable).

Finally, the term “scope” is inadequate as well. Scope usually refers to the tangible output produced but leaves the desired and expected “outcomes” and “impacts” unaddressed. Without an understanding of outcomes (finite and measurable objective changes) and longer-term impacts (broader and the longer term effect of an outcome), it is no surprise that organizations get stuck in “featuritis”, the belief that more is better.

To be agile, an organization doesn’t need to just get better at producing stuff but to also pay heed to what is being produced and why. Until this is addressed, agile as mistakenly implemented will continue to disappoint — benefits expected from an agile transformation will fail to materialize.

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