The Lean-Agile Prism: Going Beyond The Agile Triangle


difficult. The budget assigned to Mike also gives him no choice but to improvise at times and use equipment that is not the most adequate for the job, thus creating overhead. He himself manages pretty much all of the scope. His staff is used: one person to cover weekends, and the other to cover overnight; that is, they are used as maintenance folks for the odd hours.


The agile triangle (aka the inverted triangle)

With the emergence of agile came a new triangle, the agile triangle , which graphically is nothing more than the same iron triangle, only inverted upside-down (see Figure 2). This simple change brought, however, a very important consideration. It tells us that, to truly get a project done properly we must first determine the scope of our project, and allow cost and schedule to adjust accordingly. Meaning, executives should not say “we have x amount of dollars and t amount of time to get this project done”. Instead, the thinking shifted to “We have to allow adequate time and be willing to spend what is necessary to get all these features done”. That is, set the weight of the scope and handle cost / schedule to ensure all those features make it to market. Meaning, cost and schedule become the restrictions while features are the base for estimates because the driver is value (the vision) and not the plan. In practice, though, this was hard to handle. Companies are rarely flexible enough to follow it.


Cost Schedule


Figure 2. The Agile Triangle

Under this model Mike would be thrilled to have flexibility of cost and schedule based on set scope, but the thrill wouldn’t take long to vanish. His problems are of different nature. Yes, more budget would allow him to get better routers and backup mechanisms, and he would get a bit more sleep. However, the core problems between the Hotel staff and the systems would change little.

The new agile triangle.

If we think carefully about Scope, Cost, and Schedule, all of them are actually restrictions. Jim Highsmith did so and concluded that measuring project success only in terms of those restrictions might not be the most successful strategy, if at all. Highsmith proposed then a new agile triangle, as shown in Figure 3,


Figure 3. The new Agile Triangle

What this tells us is that Value, both to the customer and to the business, is the most important measure. The more value we provide to customer the more we ensure a successful product and returning customers. Furthermore, the more value we add to the business the happier we’ll make our investors. Quality is the second most important measure because customers expect the product or service they get to make their lives better in some way, and if quality is low then customers satisfaction is adversely affected. Oh, and quality should better the company employees’ lives by reducing not only defects but also increasing adaptability. Unhappy customers translate into loss of business. The Restrictions part of the triangle encompasses scope, cost, and schedule and must be handled the best possible way to allow for the value and quality set to be delivered.

Mike would say, “my systems has added lots of value since the level of automation is quite high, and the quality is also high because the code is reliable”. A missing piece that the new agile triangle helps Mike see is that value and quality focuses attention on meeting the customer’s conditions-of-satisfaction. Mike would then say, “it takes the hotel staff less time to do their job and less mistakes

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