Agile Techniques Work in Crisis Management

It’s time for March Madness. For those of you not familiar with the phrase, March Madness refers to the collegiate basketball tournament resulting in the selection of a U.S. college basketball, national champion. For college basketball fans, this is the equivalent of a feeding frenzy.

It reminds me of more than a few corporate feeding frenzies I’ve witnessed. They usually play out something like this:

  • Something goes wrong at a customer site — terribly wrong.
  • Senior management declares “all hands on deck”.
  • The frenzy begins as many people try to help.
  • It takes several days, perhaps longer, but a solution is found and deployed.

These problems are amplified by the need to involve multiple organizations such as customer support, sales, engineering, product management, etc. Communication and collaboration become major problems.

Doesn’t this sound like a situation where agile techniques can help?

  • You need a cross-functional team.
  • You need frequent face-to-face communications.
  • You need a core team focused on finding a solution and delivering it to the customer.

In my experience, what works best in these situations is for a senior manager to take charge. He becomes the Scrum Master, making decisions and removing impediments. He chairs daily meetings attended by a core team. These are just like Scrum stand-ups. Attendees are asked what was done, what will be done and what impediments exist.

It is amazing what large, slow-moving, enterprises can accomplish when there’s a crisis. I’ve witnessed it many times and agile techniques really help. It is precisely the abilities to open communications, clear obstacles, and empower the team that lead to quick solutions.

These principles make agile development very powerful. Your thoughts?

Updated: March 17, 2011 — 9:11 pm