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Apprentice week 1: Agile fish caught in a waterfall

By Ben Green - ILX Group | 28 October 2015

With the return this week to the small screen of everyone's favourite boardroom, comes once again the oppor-tuna-ty to scrutinise every specification, every decision, and every risk managed by each team; inevitably leading to those two most feared of words.

Challenge 1 – Early AM, head straight for Billingsgate Fish Market. Decide on products to manufacture (dishes), procure relevant produce (seafood), and deliver said product to end user (sell to hungry city workers).

The differences between the two teams' approaches to the initial challenge, were stark. Identified as Versatile's PM due to her apparent wealth of experience in food management gathered through food allergies, Selina Waterman-Smith began the first task as an apparent underdog, to April Jackson's Food Blog knowledge.

The key moments came however in the Initiation of the project; the scoping, risk register, and the project plan.

Connexus initially suffered key problems in the scoping of the product that was required; 300 fishcakes. By not adapting the PRINCE2 style management of the project, they were unable to adapt quickly enough to the change in circumstances.

Only 87 were produced, and instead of being agile when it became apparent the specifications of the product were incompatible, they steamed on regardless.

By comparison, Versatile identified the risk of missing the lunchtime rush, and employed an agile tactic by going to market with (delivering to the end user) the minimum viable product. The second iteration of product released from production then went out, though targeting a different, fairly receptive end user (Vegan restaurants aside).

The lack of governance in the agile approach of team Versatile came back to bite them however, when their second product overran the tolerance granted to it and the calamari stench (and significant over-hanging cost) threatened to derail the entire project.

The command and control structure imposed on Connexus by April, also hindered progress, when deciding on inhibitive pricing, whereas Selina worked more as a problem solver/ eliminator (some would say scrum master) for her respective team.

Though this is but a snapshot of the elements involved (and I invite you to watch/ re-watch to decide for yourselves), the eventual victors in Versatile won by a considerable margin.

So, the question we must ask ourselves is, which is the preferable approach?

The answer – both, or at least a blend of the two.

Relevant governance, appropriate risk identification and management by exception combined with the ability to react to changing scope.

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