could release--a surprise to the entire team. Gina was convinced it was luck because they had not ranked the entire product backlog, just the in-process work. Regardless, she was willing to take luck.
Make Sure You Have Everyone You Need on the Team
At first, Gina wasn't aware that her testers and writers were attempting to multitask on several projects. The problem surfaced when the team moved to shorter timeboxes, and no one had time to postpone work.
Gina held a meeting with all of the managers and asked, "Do you care when we release this product?" Each person cared. "Do you care if we release it on time?" The unanimous answer was yes. Gina explained that their only choice was to keep everyone assigned to the project on it full time--no multitasking, no context switching, no quick interruptions.
One of the test managers asked, "But how do I staff all my projects?"
Gina said, "You don't. If this project is more important than the others, you staff this one. You don't staff all the projects."
The test manager replied, "But I don't have enough people for the other projects."
Gina was tempted to say "tough" but realized that wasn't a career-enhancing move. Instead, she said, "Look, you folks told me this project was critical to the company's success. If it is, we staff this project. If we have too many projects critical to the company's success, you folks have to decide which ones really are critical. But if you want me to run this project in an agile way, you can't pull anyone off or ask them to work on more than one project at a time. They either work on this project or they don't. This is a binary decision. The team can't estimate what they can do nor can the project succeed if they have to work on more than one project at a time. Now, if you really think we have two critical projects and we need these people to work on both, we can alternate timeboxes to work first on this project and then the other. But I bet we don't really have two critical projects."
The managers discussed this loudly and long and finally agreed with Gina. If they assigned people to her project, they would not ask those people to work on other projects.
A Relatively Happy Ending
Gina and the team successfully delivered their release, just a month after the senior management's requested date. They had never delivered anything that fast before and with as few defects. However, the team was tired. Instead of maintaining a sustainable pace, they tried to add overtime to their last three timeboxes. Not only was the intensity of the work in the timeboxes something they'd not encountered before, they also realized adding overtime was nuts because it came at a high cost.
Some people left the company to work where the intensity was lower. But a funny thing happened. Gina started receiving resumes. Since she wasn't a hiring manager she forwarded the resumes to HR, so they were able to replace the people who left.
When Gina's boss told her to take over another project in mid-stream and "convert" it to agile, she said, "I'll restart it as an agile project. I won't start in the middle again. And I want some outside help if I have to do this with a new team again." She got it.
Transitioning to agile in the middle of a project is difficult. As a project manager, you have to learn to work in timeboxes, help the team plan just