December 22, 2018

Agile project management: what’s in a name?

Reading time: 2 minutes

Tips on how to make agile project management work for you.

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple butterfly emoji, in front of a blue zig zag shape across the bottom

How many times have you heard the words agile, scrum and sprint thrown around? If the answer is few, have a read of this article (from Hubspot) and this one (on the Agile Manifesto) before you continue on with this post. I’m not here to trash agile methodology, in fact, quite the opposite! There are many things I like about this style of project and software management, such as:

  • Release early, release often
  • Regular check in points with the team
  • Collaborate as a team
  • Adapt, grow and make changes as the project grows

I thought of this post as I was eavesdropping in a conversation on the bus (oops!). The commuters were discussing the adoption of agile project management at their workplace. They were complaining, and they were complaints I’ve heard before. Here’s some examples:

“We have to do a daily scrum, no one comes prepared and we end up wasting an hour or two of our time.”

“It’s hard to find face-to-face time for everyone to attend a scrum. Important people are often missing. We don’t have a written record of what’s discussed or a place for these people to add their progress.”

“We’re working in two week sprints but we’ve got competing priorities. If we don’t finish the tasks are getting lost because we haven’t accounted for them in the next sprint.”

“There’s a disconnect with our manager and the team of what the priorities should be.”

“There’s a disconnect with our team and the client of what the priorities should be.”

“It’s a good idea, but it’s not the agile way so we won’t do it.”

Not all of these are due to the adoption of an agile method. Though, a lot could get resolved if we made a better effort to adapt a method to better suit us and our working environment. Rather than getting caught up on the principles. For example:

Not prepared, or able to lock down a time for a daily face-to-face scrum? ✍🏼

Do it in writing. Have a spot that everyone should write a quick 5 minute update on what they’re doing that day. If you feel your team is lacking from face-to-face time have it every second day instead.

Competing priorities and tasks getting missed? 🌪

Discuss it before it becomes a problem. Open up the communication channels. Make the team understand they can talk about their tasks at any point not only in a daily scrum or at the end of a sprint.

Disconnect between management and the rest of the team? 🗣

Call a meeting, discuss what the issues are. Don’t wait and let it manifest and become a big problem.

Disconnect with the client? 🤫

Raise these issues with management. Make them aware the importance of re-aligning everyone’s priorities, and what the consequences are if you don’t. Don’t remain silent, it’ll bite you in the bum!

It’s not the agile way? 🤷🏼‍♀️

Who cares! Weigh it up. If it’s going to be a bother or if you find it’ll be efficient, beneficial and going to get a project delivered, then do it!

In the end…

Whichever management style you use, it’s important to remain flexible and open to change. Next time you feel yourself getting hamstrung by sticking rigidly to a particular method, question how you could adapt and compromise for a better outcome. It’d be a shame for your project to be inefficient as a result of being inflexible and willing to change.

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Aimee Cowie

Wanna be tap dancer, annoyingly organised, to do list aficionado and digital producer. See what else I've written here.

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