Traditional project management methodologies have always tried to control the amount of change within a project. Change management procedures, meticulously scripted legal contracts and rigorous budget policies, are designed to fend change off as long as possible and keep change within a project to a bare minimum. This has often led to “successfully” completed projects with significantly diminished or even none of the benefits hoped for.
Agile project management, being the new kid on the block, turned this approach to change management upside down with its Agile Manifesto. “Responding to change over following a plan,” is arguably the most contentious point with senior management when they are first confronted with this revolutionary approach toworking.
On agile projects, the ability to not only respond to but welcome change is the most powerful tool. The ability to embrace change is built in to every agile process, practice and attitude. For example, while scrum has a rule of “no change within the sprint”, you are free to add, remove, reprioritize or even chuck away the whole product backlog. In essence, this means that scrum accommodates any degree of change in between sprints. This also means that the shorter your sprints are, the more opportunities you have to accommodate change! Many agile teams now only have a sprint cycle of 1 week or shorter.
Another example of how change is inherently built into agile is its feedback cycle. Besides sprint cycles, agile encourages teams to find other feedback cycles and to shorten them as much as possible. In recent years this has led to a higher emphasis on practices of continuous integration (CI). CI allows you to reduce feedback cycles from what used to be months to a mere seconds.
To take things more to the extreme, one could even claim that a project without change is a failed project! Think about it for a while – change is everywhere and happens all the time. Without the ability to change things, our life would be a series of constant failures and, quite frankly, boring. Starting from the alternative route to work you took this morning because of traffic, to the way you handled the meeting due to a sudden change of direction from a stakeholder, up to your unplanned impulse decision to buy Apple’s latest magical device – change permeates through our lives every day. Most of the time, we don’t even notice it!