This article was originally written on May 25th, 2007
How is it that a 30 year old construction company can defeat a clichéd image of a slow moving, deadline-missing, tax-eating machine to that of an industry-leading, lean and fast infrastructure development firm? By adopting agile methodologies, probably without even knowing it.
First, let’s get some incredible facts out of the way. On April 29th 2007, a gasoline tanker truck took a bit of a spill here in the bay area and turned an incredible amount of liquid into an incredible amount of flame. Twenty-six days later everything was back to normal.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but about mid-way through my commute we’ve got a bit of a construction project going on. You know the drill, there is a sign posted next to this construction that marks “October 2006” as the completion date and there they are, about 20 construction workers doing their thing. It’s May 2007 by the way, and the overpass they are working on has a wooden external frame, which I’m guessing isn’t their final design. Let’s call this “typical” of construction management projects.
In stark contrast, we have the now soon-to-be infamous “I-580 / 880 Emergency Repair” project, run by C.C. Myers. In reading the article I started seeing very familiar concepts appear. Now I’m not sure if Michael Cabanatuan or anyone at C.C. Myers has ever heard of agile or not, but they certainly act like it. Let’s take a look.
When Caltrans mentioned a willingness to be flexible when it awarded the job, some critics feared it would mean lower standards and inferior quality. In fact, UC Berkeley civil engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh said Thursday he was not convinced that four concrete columns supporting 580 or 880 could withstand a major earthquake. Instead, they should have been demolished and replaced, he said. But Land and Peter Strykers, Caltrans senior engineer, said multiple tests were performed on both the surviving structures and the new construction, and they are confident of its safety. Relying on Testing over a professors guesstimations? TDD in action!
Customers, banking executives as well as the commuting moms on their way to drop the kids off at the pool, all expect high quality in a timely fashion. The basic tenets of the agile manifesto are proven ways for people to execute change, no matter what you call them.
I just wish somebody would tell the guys working on the overpass on my way to work!