After Midnight: Agile and the Pumpkin Theory

After Midnight: Agile and the Pumpkin Theory

Insights | 30 October 2015

In today’s fast-paced world, executives want results now; time is of the essence.
But what happens if your project team isn’t there yet? You haven’t completed 100% what you set out to do!

Agile approaches are part of business and project life for many organisations today. A key focus for many projects is the need to deliver on time and to budget. And it is these very aspects that agile methods concentrate on, typically fixing time and budget. In a world where time to market is often a driver, no wonder agile approaches have caught executives’ attention!

Timeboxing and Deadlines

At its most fundamental, a ‘timebox’ is a finite period of time during which work is carried out to meet an agreed objective. But here comes the catch, if we agree on say a 2 week timebox (for example in a sprint in Scrum) then the agreed deadline should not be moved. If we agree to a 6 month (timeboxed) project, then we are in fact agreeing the end date of the project.

So what gives? Well if you are in a competitive environment (like many organisations) and time to market is critical, is it a case of being best (often after your competitor has already launched their product) or is being first best?


A core concept of agile approaches is to recognise that the customer doesn’t really need everything. Really? We may think we want everything but…

Do you use every feature on your smart phone? Do you even know about every feature? (If you want to test this out ask your kids – they typically can show you a feature or two you never knew existed!).

You use what is important and useful for you. So let’s apply that exact idea in our projects: the concept of flexing or prioritising what is delivered. Agile techniques include ordering requirements (for example using a basic scoring system) or looking at ‘musts’ (essentials), ‘shoulds’, ‘coulds’ and ‘won’t have for now’ (MoSCoW).

It is this prioritisation of work and what is delivered on a continual basis that means we meet our project deadlines.

The value of being on time and keeping to that deadline

The advantages of on-time delivery speak for themselves:

  • Earlier benefit realisation
  • Reduction in cost overruns
  • Improved dependency management (for example where the deliverables of your project may be inputs to others)
  • Improved reputation and building stakeholder confidence – not only do you agree to deadlines but you actually meet deadlines!

So what happens at midnight?

That’s right, no pumpkins here when we focus on a fundamental mindset change and recognise that we (and others) don’t typically need everything we asked for: it’s about flexibility, business agility and commercial reality.

‘…this new arrangement asks the customer a question: “If you want your project delivered on time, the level of quality protected…and at no extra cost…are you happy to forgo some of your lower-priority requirements…if necessary?”’

PRINCE2 Agile, AXELOS 2015

PRINCE2 Agile is a trade mark of AXELOS Limited
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