Agile, Scrum, Johhny Depp, Alice in Wonderland, portfolio, Toby Elwin, blog

Scrum and portfolio strategy as 2 current challenges

Agile, scrum portfolio strategy, Johhny Depp, Alice in Wonderland, portfolio, Toby Elwin, blog

Subtle mistakes are two: 1) a Scrum Master never sits and 2) a Scrum Master never pours the tea

All challenges are not solved with the same solution and working with others challenges ways we work to come to solutions. If we all viewed things the same, collaboration would prove simple. The objective is to find ways to work together.

I view Scrum project management and an ability to balance priorities with portfolio strategy perspective as solutions for 2 current challenges in my world.

Through collaboration we gain perspective and new courses to pursue. Frameworks are a way we make sense of the world, the challenge:

  • People have go-to¬†frameworks;
  • People use framework as a short¬†cuts;
  • People look for solutions before¬†possibilities; and
  • People short-circuit the¬†collaborative power of cognitive diversity for the sake of getting¬†started

We share concepts and frameworks to communicate direction. Back to the 2 recent, but unrelated(?), challenges that might demand a new approach.

1. Scrum Projects in a Waterfall World

Scrum is an Agile methodology to project management. An Agile focus is on people and interactions to produce frequent, tangible results. My favorite quote explains the difference Agile project management has to sequential design of waterfall project management:

Traditional project management methods fix requirements in an effort to control time and cost [resources]. Scrum, on the other hand, fixes time and cost [resources] in an effort to control requirements. [emphasis added] Michele Sliger, Sliger Consulting

While Scrum is Agile, Scrum is not the sole method of Agile project management. Scrum is one Agile/Lean approach. Scrum is an Agile method of iterative and incremental delivery that uses frequent feedback and collaborative decision-making.

As critical as requirements are to Scrum, people involvement from the business, throughout, is a heavily, relied upon collaboration between team and customer. Is that not the goal of all projects? The wait on Waterfall methods is a wait around the relevance that sequential, project management, delivery organizations have to remain competitive.

Design up front, initiation, then phases of development and test go against the effect time has on change. For more on Agile, I recommend Scrum Foundation, in particular, a direct link to The Scrum Papers [.pdf file].

2. Prioritize Options into a Portfolio Strategy

A portfolio perspective is very similar to 401(k) plans:  collect a basket of options to mix and match for targeted results. Review the basket often to rebalance and prune, as needed, to maintain focus on goal. Strategic portfolios are not about doing a lot of things marginally, but some high risk/reward attempts against some safer bets. Collectively, they balance for safer options.

You then look at time and adjust the basket of options, against time and risk/reward, or payoff. Getting something done is different than getting something accomplished. Time is a resource we can never recover and what we choose to do with the time to do it becomes an important management skill:  only have 8 hours to do something then get the most important item done.

A portfolio strategic perspective, on teams, in business units, or on projects, makes you focus on how to marshal resources, that are always finite, into ways we get things done towards a goal. Each item in the basket of options has a risk for payoff and a risk for failure, combined, though, you balance the portfolio basket as a whole.

Your business strategy is a portfolio of options and portfolio perspective is something organizations and teams can adopt and understand competitive capability. After all, you can not do everything, so you must do something. You can also take on portfolio management perspective through a human capital lens.

All or Nothing At All

What are recurring challenges that Scrum or a portfolio strategy might help? What are other current challenges that seem to continue to crop up without resolution? I will follow-up on either of the above that inspire future posts. I welcome your thoughts.

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Comments 2

  1. I think Scrum and Portfolio management can indeed be related, but I think they are often geared to solve different problems. I view portfolio management more related to which projects to select, how you track and measure progress, and get value out of them.

    I view Agile/Scrum as more of a delivery method to provide solutions to business problems. There are some projects that are well suited to Agile, and others that may be better delivered in a waterfall fashion.

    Portfolio management should apply to everything you manage, regardless of the implementation/delivery method.

    1. Post

      Does someone use Scrum exclusive of portfolio management technigues? I think you took view that I intended to connect the 2, in reality, it was poor communication on my part.

      I intended to show 2 challenges I am involved with across the variety of work I do, but as separate, not linked. I set out to share each and then connect with others if they see either or both as challenges in their world, but not as cause and effect for challenge.

      I agree with your perspective of portfolio. The unique view you present back to me, from my initial poorly-communicated blog above, is that at the end of each Scrum sprint there are a portfolio of new options to review to set the next Scrum in motion.

      It is an interesting micro version of macro portfolio perspective of products, services, and investments that still meet the portfolio of options around what to include, what to take out, and how to balance acceptable risk.

      As you point out in your final sentence, “Portfolio management should apply to everything you manage, regardless of the implementation/delivery method.” Again, I agree.

      Now, Henry, in light of my admission that I did not intend to communicate their linkage, what, now, are your thoughts?

      And thank you for already lending light on a new area of thought as well as the opportunity to review and edit for better clarity.

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