One of the reasons lean methods work so well is that their simplicity exposes reality in a way that allows management to make good decisions about the way forward. A complex, heavyweight methodology creates a lot of corners that can be used to hide information. Information hiding is a true killer of excellence and it must be avoided at all costs.
On the other hand, heavyweight methodologies have a tendency to make management feel more secure. The more expensive or exposed the project, the more management likes a process with lots of steps, lots of artifacts, and a strong feeling of control. As anyone knows who has ever worked a heavyweight process, this security is an illusion. Heavyweight processes have a lot of deliverables. The deliverables make it look like something is happening. But, in the end, the project fails and management is left with the same two choices – kill the project and fail, or agree to overruns and fail.
In this case, failure is not good. But why is it so universal? It’s because the heavyweight process takes so long before you can see working software. While you’re waiting, you’re not identifying mistakes, you’re not identifying misunderstandings, and you’re not identifying team members who can’t do their jobs effectively. When you let those and similar issues build up, they lead to failure.
Agile offers a solution to the security issue by asking developers to create potentially deliverable, and fully demonstrable functionality every iteration. While heavyweight processes are creating analysis documents, memos, meeting minutes, and technical specifications, Agile teams are creating working software. If they’re not creating working software, the reasons will be exposed and easily addressed. Within a few iterations you’ll have the right team working together in the right way delivering the right features quickly and with high quality. And, they’ll have a good time doing it.
So, if you have an expensive or critical project, don’t find the person with the most experience delivering expensive or critical projects. Find the person who is best at simplifying and telling you the truth.
Doing more puts your project at risk.