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Macro vs Micro? — Why Agile and Waterfall are both wrong.

I’ve been managing development and creative teams for over 15 years.

I’ve come to realize everyone’s doing it wrong. The current state of affairs makes it very easy to fall down the slippery slope of micro-management and over-management.

Let’s take a closer look.

Origins — Waterfall
Circa 1910. Dude named Henry Gantt creates a chart defining projects / tasks against time. Hence the name Gantt chart.

Stakeholders love them, employees (and the person tasked with making them) not so much.

Origins — Agile
Circa 2001. Jeff Sutherland along with a bunch other people meet up to discuss agile software management. Subsequently much of the tech world (if not much of the business world) now views agile as the reigning king of management methodology.

We’ll dive into these methodologies and our thoughts on them in more detail in subsequent posts. For now we need that overview to discuss the problem that we’ve observed, lived through, and are actively solving for here at Timelinr.

The Challenge
The biggest challenge I’ve seen is that teams are usually led by managers extremely devoted to one camp or the other. Most say Agile is the savior, and thus should be followed with great precision and process.

The problem is that much of this thought removes the very flexibility Agile methods were decided to introduce. And worse, much of the micro-management that Agile was supposed to help teams avoid become intrinsic to the nature of Kanban, Scrum and all the subcultures of the Agile culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d never propose that the old-school thought process of Waterfall Management and overly complex Gantt charts is the answer either.

The Solution
So what do we propose? Marry the two methodologies. There are cases where you absolutely need a high level timeline / roadmap.There are times when all you need is a task list / Kanban board.

Instead of strong opinions one way or another we should get comfortable with a methodology based on fluidity.

After managing teams for many years, I realized that the key to getting everyone marching in the same direction was to give the team a vision. A high-level strategy on what we needed or wanted to achieve.

You can then break down high level goals into smaller and smaller chunks. My advice though is always to focus on as macro a plan as possible and stay as high level as possible while still keeping the team effective and efficient. This is really the only way to keep a check on micromanagement.

Instead of firmly planting yourself in one camp or the other, can’t we all just get along?

Timelinr Methodology
Planning is a means to an end. That end is getting the work done. This is where the Timelinr Methodology suggests you focus team energy.

Timelinr is being designed to abstract as much management away from a team’s day to day as possible. With less planning / management what can we accomplish with the saved time?

We’ve seen that for too many teams, meeting and planning is considered the real work. We’d like to propose that while important at times, meetings and planning are a major hindrance to real iterative work getting done.

A methodology that’s flexible, lightweight, and allows for work above everything else, is the best formula for success.

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