The Agile Tribe

Sacrificing Happiness for Wealth and Fame

on September 16, 2009

Author: James Couzens

A couple of days ago I was standing with a colleague at a project’s story wall comparing the project’s success sliders with a recent article of Jim Highsmith’s discussing an Agile alternative to the Iron Triangle (http://blog.cutter.com/2009/08/10/beyond-scope-schedule-and-cost-measuring-agile-performance/). The first four sliders showed Scope, Cost, Time and Quality and the slider indicated how fixed or flexible we were on each. A number of things hit me as odd, first, that quality should probably not be on a continuum of fixed to flexible, more on one of high to low, the second was that all our sliders were in the top half of the scale, at least one maxed out. This got me thinking about a game I used to play when I was much younger, Careers.

In Careers, just like in our Agile project, there were criteria that measured success (Happiness, Fame and Wealth). In Careers, just like in our Agile project, you assigned a weight to how important each was to your success. However, in Careers there was a fixed total number of points assignable to the three measures. So, if you wanted Wealth and Fame there would be less Happiness to go around. If Happiness was important you had to settle for less Wealth or Fame. Maybe this model should be used for our success sliders.

We should have a fixed total number of points that represent success and if we max out on a fixed scope, and max out on a fixed schedule, then we have just consigned ourselves to a very flexible budget and low quality. I know that the relationships between these things are more complex than that but by making the relationship between the factors explicit, such that increasing one resulted necessarily in the decrease of another, forces us to acknowledge the impact of our decisions.

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2 responses to “Sacrificing Happiness for Wealth and Fame

  1. Andy Marks says:

    When I use project sliders, the relative distance between the various settings is not something I put a lot of importance on. The main thing I’m looking for is a clear priority order between the various levers so decisions can be made in context of these overall drivers.

    The visual metaphor behind the sliders doesn’t really convey either this intent, or the one about having to trade-off between “points” as James’ suggests.

  2. James King says:

    I used to play careers when I was a kid too. It was a great game.

    I never associated the game with project sliders before though. Brilliant piece of connection.

    On reflection sliders are just like the game. If you focus on only one topic in the game then the other players beat you, and in projects if you focus on only one they you get into trouble.

    I have found that having people assign a set number of points across each of the success criteria (or sliders in this example) leads to some very useful discussion. In fact every time we do it we find some conflicting assumptions or priorities.

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