Agile Project Management

Whenever I’m chatting with a project or software development manager and the conversation turns to Agile I always get the same response; “That would never work for us!” quickly followed by “How do you maintain your project management responsibilities?”

To the former, yes, Agile absolutely would work. Assuming you implement it in a way that makes sense for your environment.

To the latter, my simple answer is pretty much the way I always have but with less stress, tension and far more productivity.

How?

I still use the One-Page Project Manager for my yearly overview, I still create project plans and still provide all the same reporting to the executive level. When budgeting season comes around I’m all about MS Project running scenarios to make sure I have the resources available to respond to the needs of our business partners. My project phases are all still there just compressed, continually repeating and completely transparent. Plan, Do, Check, Act is the norm, every single day.

Instead of months of meetings, design work and documentation ending in a lengthy charter negotiations, I have one meeting to determine scope, features and time frame followed by regular collaborative discussions as we show work in progress. We still do design and documentation just at a lower level and at the moment and level that it’s needed. I don’t worry about scope creep, I have product backlogs to manage that.

Instead of monthly (or <gasp> weekly) project status meetings, I now have an open door policy for every customer and a single monthly demonstration of completed work for all projects. Any time a customer is curious about progress they can walk up to our task board and see exactly where we are today.

Instead of receiving status reports from my developers that I’m never really 100% certain are accurate, I have a daily stand up where I know exactly what was accomplished yesterday, what is on deck for today and what obstacles are in the way.

What have we given up?

We have zero tension with our business partners now, no more blame storming, email bombs or flat out mendacity. Gone are the fire drills or snipe hunts, those projects that get on the plan because one person is loud enough but that don’t provide any real business value. We no longer rush to respond only to wait for implementation because the business is off on something new, we rarely miss commitments or deadlines now that we’re on pace with the business. All of that leads to a good portion of the stress of being a rapid development team just vanishing.

What have we gained?

Awesome relationships, I had no idea how many of my product owners are actually great people and fun to work with. Our team morale is high because we have that feeling that we’re taking care of the things people really need right now. We have an upbeat fun environment, lots of laughter and camaraderie that goes beyond the team itself. All of that while we are producing more products and completing, successfully, close to twice the projects we did prior to moving to Agile.

So, if you think that Agile is just some trendy, chaotic, feel good methodology, I challenge you to take a second look, do some research, even visit with some real teams, I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

 

 

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