A few years back I came across an interesting blog - Rogue Project Leader. There are lots of self-proclaimed "project leaders" out there. There are lots of book authors that make claims about how they are the ones to follow, how their books are the "next big thing," and how they measure their importance by how fast their books and related ideas are being snapped up on Amazon.
Well Dan isn't one of those. Dan Ward is an Air Force Lt. Colonel who writes about a variety of things. Some about project management, some about things unrelated. Dan latest book is The Radical Elements of Radical Success, cover to the left. Dans other books are F.I.S.T. and the Simplicity Cycle.
Now these are not the high minded books we see passed off by those thought leaders. You know books that will change how you think about management, development, projects, or general principles of anything. They are down to earth books. So far down, that one is free, the others are under $20. All paper backs, all ready to read and put to work.
Dan's F.I.S.T is a compilation of articles from the pages of Defense AT&L. This is one of several journals from the Defense Acquisition University. Dan has an article in the current edition, titled My Big, Slow Fail. It may sound like I'm Dan's cheering section. It didn't start out that way. We had an extended "discussion" of sorts around the notion that Cost, Schedule, Quality (Technical Performance actually) could all be had in equal portions and the "faster, better, cheaper" (FBC) school of thought needed to be re-introduced.
My experience with FBC is through two spectacular failures of Mars missions. Two very expensive machines "bounced" on Mars during the NASA FBC days. In the end the discussion came around to the Domain and Context of FBC needs to be tightly controlled. Dan's counter example is the FBC article in AT&L. And the rapid deployment of MC-12, which provides real-time full-motion video and signals intelligence and allow military leaders to make battlefield decisions. The MC-12 might be considered an example of an "agile" project. But unlike those IT agile projects, the MC-12 is a fielded combat system which was "engineered" for a specific mission.
So all this leads me to the point - sort of. The radical Elements of Radical Success is a book I've order for our staff of a simple reason. Along with Dan's F.I.S.T, Radical contains advice from someone "walking the walk" of agile acquisition. This means for the Air Force "buying stuff from defense contractors." We're a defense contractor and are simple business strategy is "sell stuff to the defense industry." We sell Program Controls Services, but those who buy our "stuff" build "stuff" that Dan's organization buys.
It's just one happy selling machine. But lately the "buying" side of this machine is running a little low on cash - for all the right reasons. The "Boss" of this enterprise has put out the word that buying will now have to be cut back and when buying it'll have to be for very good reasons and that buying will have to take into account the current "agile" practices. For the IT buying community there is a "clear and concise" directive in NDAA Section 804.
All this leads me to the end. The NDAA 804, "Mr. Gates," the notion of rapid and agile acquisition, and the related rapid and agile development (MC-12 example) and Lt.Col Dan Ward's notions of F.I.S.T have all come together. The principles of Agile have come to roost in the defense community. A colleague and I gave a talk at the recent NDIA (National Defense Industry Association) titled "Successfully Integrating Agile and Earned Value Management."
This is the beginning of what is hoped will be the "mainstreaming" of agile concepts. Now I know many of the Agile leaders think they have mainstreamed the concepts already. But let me explain a simple fact. Follow the money. The IT budget for the US Federal Budget exclusive of DoD is in the many billions of dollars. For DoD the same. We're talking many many billions - money with a B.
So when there is talk of scaling agile to the enterprise, let's put that in perspective. A payroll system that pays 6.2 million people through 252.2 million GL accounts to the tune of $578B, a health care delivery system for active duty, reserves, and retired military with a budget of $29.243B. There's those pesky B's again. So if anyone on the planet needs agile its the US DoD and related agencies.
Now the agile we're speaking about, throught SecDef mandated (NDAA Section 804), and the acquisition community is starting to require, the same as "five guys in the same room with their customer?" Uh that's be a NO. But the principles of Agile are DIRECTLY applicable to the work in which I work. They are.
Ignoring some of the nitty language issues, who in this room (there were government and industry officials there) would NOT want to have these principles applied to their program?
The members of the audience included the leaders of the EV community, defense contractors big and small (we're small) and our hosts who manage the largest defense procurement going on today, with a planned acquisition of $238B (those B's again).
The answer in nodding heads, smiles (in our domain people don't smile that much) and later requests for the presentation materials, seemed to indicate No One would NOT want these principles applied to their program. We then revealed the "title" of this briefing page - THE 12 PRINCIPLES OF THE AGILE MANIFESTO.
So there we have it. The principles are there, all we need to do now is put them to work inside the FAR 34.202 and DFAR 252.234–7002., DoD Instruction 5000.02, Enclosure 4 Table 5. Defense Acquisition Guidebook, Chapter 11, Section 188.8.131.52, ANSI-748-B, OMB Circular A-11, Part 7, and NDIA EVMIG guidance.
And all this thanks to Dan's proding several years ago around "getting with the program and start thinking in F.I.S.T terms for the Billion $ procurements.