What is Agile Project Management?

By Cindy Lewis

When you see a reference to “agile,” you may think of the dictionary definition that describes this concept as the ability to move quickly and easily. When the concept is “Agile Project Management,” it’s describing the process of taking a traditional approach to delivery and modifying it to include techniques that produce some immediate results in a shorter period of time.

In Agile Project Management you don’t want to wait until a long period has passed to deliver something to the customer, client or sponsor. Your goal is to deliver something as soon as you can so you get immediate feedback and modify the approach as needed.

A way to think about Agile Project Management is to consider a haircut. Assume you’re the barber or stylist and the client is the recipient of the haircut. You could take one of two approaches to this haircut. In the waterfall approach you gather all of the customer’s requirements and deliver the final haircut for approval once you’re done with it. In the agile approach, you continually solicit feedback as you make incremental changes throughout the haircut. The customer has the option to modify a straight cut to a layered cut or to modify the length of any part of the hair as the process goes on.

When to Use Agile PM

The Agile Project Management approach doesn’t work well when the client is unwilling to participate in on-going discussions about the project, won’t prioritize his or her requests or doesn’t support flexibility in the evolution of the solution. Those customers might be better suited for a traditional waterfall project management approach.

Clients who support a flexible delivery date, who are anxious to jump in, who provide feedback and answer questions very quickly are well suited for the agile project management approach.

The Agile Project Management approach works well when team members who are subject matter experts are able to take a concept and figure out the best approach to work through that concept, when team members are willing to adjust to new customer requirements and changing information about a project and when team members support each other during challenging periods. Team members who need detailed directions or are not able to develop solutions themselves may be better suited for a traditional waterfall project, where tasks are assigned to them directly.

In my opinion, the Agile Project Management approach is about managing the known information you have available at a point in time and regularly evolving the solution as you gain knowledge. There are always unknown factors in a project; but with Agile, you regularly meet to address those factors and plan a way to move forward.

How to Apply Agile to Projects

There are a number of ways to apply Agile methods to your project:

  • Scrum is a methodology that was originally designed to manage software development projects. Some organizations have adopted this approach.
  • Kanban board is another popular agile technique where work is grouped into columns or categories such as “Unstarted,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” The Kanban approach typically provides a very visual way to illustrate the progress.

Agile project management is still evolving and growing in companies. To learn how to take advantage of an Agile or hybrid approach to project management, connect with us.

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