Getting to the Agile Mindset for Project Managers

Getting to the Agile Mindset for Project Managers

Insights | 17 May 2017

Whether you are new to project management or are an experienced project manager, let’s face it, the words ‘agile’ and ‘agility’ seem to enter the conversation at some point. Regardless of sector, organisations are facing a fast-paced and ever-changing business environment with the need to be flexible, adaptable and more agile.

Hearing and Thinking Agile

Say the word ‘agile’ and responses include: flexible, working iteratively and incrementally, collaboration, self-organising, customer-focused, empowering people, prioritisation, backlogs, Scrum, inspect and adapt, timeboxes/sprints, retrospectives, trusting not blaming… The list goes on. Agile can include methods, a mindset, behaviours, concepts and techniques.

…there is no single definition of agile that accurately encapsulates them all…


8 Tips to be an ‘Agile-minded’ Project Manager

  1. Trust and Empower your team. Simple but powerful words. Your team are part of the project as they are the experts in their area. Involve them, listen to them; it isn’t about ‘command and control’ – it is about collaboration, trust and empowerment. Remember those closest to the work typically know the best way to make it happen!
  2. Involve the Customer. This is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is a must. Consider why popular agile approaches have the Product Owner (or Business Ambassador) as part of the team. And when you think the term ‘involve’, steer to more of a regular involvement as opposed to just the beginning or end of the project. Success requires ongoing and continuous customer/business engagement.
  3. Agree what ‘agile’ means to the project. Sounds obvious, but all too often we don’t take that time out to understand and agree terminology. Team members will often have different experiences and expectations of what agile is and means. Recognise there are different flavours of agile – ensure there is common understanding of what agile means for your current project.
  4. Everyone needs to understand what the priorities are at each point in time. What are the project priorities? What does the customer really need (not just want)? What are the priorities for this release? What are the priorities for this timebox/sprint? Of course, up front there has been agreement on the prioritisation approach – for example MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have for now) or ordering (1, 2, 3…)
  5. Set expectations. Simply put, some requirements will be removed – we actually don’t need everything! We need to understand what is essential. Agile approaches are about flexing what is to be delivered, meeting deadlines whilst protecting the level of quality
  6. Don’t confuse Quality and Scope (requirements). Build in quality within the project – it can’t be ‘bolted on’ at the end. Agile practices often flex what is being delivered in terms of scope as opposed to compromising the overall quality of the final product. Quality is not an absolute – the level of quality required for the project should be agreed at the start.
  7. Frequent retrospectives. If you are new to the terminology, think lessons and learnings – not just at the beginning and end of a project but as part of regular project life. What can we learn from this sprint and use to improve the next one? Inspect and adapt – how did we go with regards to people, relationships, process, tools and techniques? Plan to implement improvements in the way the team works as an integral component of the project.
  8. Promote effective and timely communications. Easier said than done. We are all good at communicating – or are we? Communication is not a once off event; it needs to happen continuously. Choose the right channel, remember the importance of ‘face-to-face’ and to be effective, communications doesn’t always have to be ‘high tech’.

Best business value emerges when projects are aligned to clear business goals, deliver frequently and involve the collaboration of motivated and empowered people.

AgilePM® Agile Project Management Handbook V2, DSDM®

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