CHOW #150 – What is the first Red pill?

Project Manager Chuck has just formed a new Agile team to develop a new generation diagnostics software for diesel engines based on real-time big data coming from field installations across the country – a mission-critical and technologically challenging work. The team reports to Chuck and he in turn reports to Mary Anne. Mary Anne is a pretty senior leader who had transitioned from being a Business Leader to her current role as the CIO. As a Business Leader, she had seen the benefits of Agile approaches from the business end of things. But in this project, Mary Anne is concerned and has asked Chuck whether more diligence is needed given the criticality and challenges. For example, would overall solution-level risks be brought up and addressed in time? If the team focused so much on the “here and now” of sprints, would they see far enough for road blocks ahead? Chuck after reading a recent blog (and seen the movie Matrix!) thinks it is time to give Mary Anne the first “red” pill. What is your pill suggestion for Chuck?


The concerns of Mary Anne (the new CIO) seem genuine – she just wants to know from Chuck (the project manager) whether the team has the wherewithal to deliver the complex mission critical solution and how she should help the team. So, Chuck has to determine whether it is a mindset issue at all requiring a “red pill” to be given to Mary Anne.

Given that the project has just started, Chuck and the team should have addressed the strategy to address solution complexity through

  • architecture review
  • ongoing architect support
  • Investigation and spike stories as needed
  • Identification of mission-critical and complex stories, their acceptance criteria etc.

He also needs to assure Mary Anne that the team fully understands the challenges and is geared up to meet them. Maybe he can get Mary Anne to interact with the team for her to get a sense.

Chuck needs to then ask Mary Anne what are her thoughts on how to improve the confidence that the project would be delivered as expected. If she has some set ideas and already made up her mind on how she would implement those ideas, then perhaps there is a red pill situation. Maybe the team would know better on whether Mary Anne’s ideas are worth pursuing or not (remember Mary Anne’s background is not in technology). Chuck needs to then resort to the red pill and steer Mary Anne to facilitate the discussion of her technical / governance mechanisms with the team (and Chuck) and agree on the actions to further enable project success.

The CHOW may be looked at from many different perspectives and the above solution outline is based on just one perspective. It would be great to hear other views and suggestions.

What do you think?

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