Agile Benefits: Increased Control

One of the reasons that agile provides stakeholder satisfaction is because of increased control. This increased control is a benefit in its own right. The word “control” must be used carefully… some agile approaches and practitioners are justly wary of the word and its common uses. This particular benefit of agile is often a little surprising to people how have believed the myths around agile that it is a chaotic-anything-goes type method. Let’s look at how an agile approach provides more control.

Increased Control

The person responsible for prioritizing the work (the Product Owner, Queue Master, Product Manager) is the locus of business control in an agile environment. This person exercises this control in a number of ways. First and foremost is through the constantly evolving queue of features or results to be delivered by the agile team. Here the Queue Master has final authority based on influence, knowledge, experience and formal appointment. The Queue Master can control the immediate and long-term work of the team through the use of this prioritized, never-frozen list of work. Every iteration, the team will accept the highest priority items according to their capacity (or velocity) and complete those. This fine-grained direction of the team is impossible in a traditional phase-based approach to working where often the “change control” process is a bureaucratic nightmare whose end result is the team preventing the business from getting what it needs.

Clearly there is more control. At what cost? Well, the previous three benefits of agile mentioned indicate that there is no financial cost (in fact there is a benefit), there is no intellectual cost (again there is a benefit), and there is no decrease in satisfaction (yet again, there is a benefit). So what is the cost? There is, unfortunately, one very deep and difficult cost: the team doing the work loses control over deciding what is valuable (cost-benefit). I know that in many IT organizations, this is a terrible political cost to pay for IT management and it is a terrible “status” cost to pay for technical folks.

Fortunately, even these losses are offset by other aspects of the agile process and its benefits… again, around the question of control.

In exchange for taking complete control over value determination, the Queue Master must grant complete control over solution discovery and implementation to the team. Of course, ideally there is close collaboration. However, if there is disagreement, this is the standard dividing line of responsibility in an agile environment. So now, to the benefit of those doing the work, they are given complete control over how to do the work and this can be an incredible benefit: it allows the full run of creativity and problem-solving skills to come into play.

Agile Benefits: Rapid Learning
Agile Benefits: Early Return on Investment
Agile Benefits: Satisfied Stakeholders
Agile Benefits: Increased Control
Agile Benefits: Responsiveness to Change
Agile Benefits: Summary Article

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