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Evening event with guest speaker Tom Gilb: A reflective account by Jim Dale

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Posted by APM on 17th Apr 2013

Right: Jose Casal-Gimenez - Chair of British Computer Society Agile Methods specialist

Middle: Tom Gilb (guest speaker)

Left: Merv Wyeth, Chair of the APM Programme Management Specific Interest Group

Hosting a joint event with the British Computer Society (BCS) was a first for the Committee. I had heard a great deal about our guest speaker Tom Gilb and his son Kai. They have jointly written books and articles and given talks about agile project management methods and have developed a technique called evolutionary systems delivery (EVO).

During the last decade I have increasingly been attracted to agile techniques for software delivery albeit the language and practices can appear a little quirky. I guess the challenge for me, as someone who practices primarily within the public sector, is on applying agile principles to those bigger non IT transformational and cultural change programmes.

Tom spoke with passion and authority. His presentation can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. A podcast of his talk can be downloaded here.

At the outset he emphasised three principles which must apply to every programme and project:

1) No project must be funded without the value being stated numerically. This doesnt have to be in financial terms but it must be measurable. While this may sound straight forward and simple I have seen countless examples were little attempt has been made to define benefits. If they are not stated from the outset the chances of any being realised become minimal.

2) No project can be delivered without value being achieved by the second week. Phew - is this guy for real? Clearly he has never worked in the public sector where the definition phase can take weeks if not months! I then reflected on this point. Why shouldnt it be possible to deliver some tangible value immediately. Prioritising value delivery is what programme management is all about or at least should be!

3) The top ten project / programme objectives should be stated on one sheet of paper. We would call these our critical success criteria. Now recording these on a single page would be a really neat idea. It would provide a crispness and focus which is sometimes sadly lacking in some of the programmes and projects I see.

While some efforts have been made to fine tune the programme and project management templates supplied by HM Treasury, the process of preparing strategic outline, outline and full business cases using the mandated five case business case model is too mechanistic; another hurdle to jump where the end goal can be drown in a sea of bureaucracy. Everyone involved in delivery should be capable of articulating the project objectives clearly and with conviction.

I like Toms three simple principles a lot. My only regret is that I didnt hear about this 25 years ago when I embarked on my first project management assignment.

Tom's presentationis available below:

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