Mythics Blog

Top 5 Tips for Transitioning to Agile Project Management

Posted on April 18, 2013 by Grace Okwumabua

Tags: Mythics Consulting, Project Management

Agile project methodology is proving to be a valuable innovation in industries that require fast turnaround on projects that fluctuate in scope and complexity. Software Development and Information Technology PM’s are the most common supporters of this approach. However, any organization that currently runs projects is a potential candidate for migrating to Agile. Here are 5 tips for getting it right:

Tip #1: Dabble the Right Way

Many organizations make only a half-hearted attempt at switching to Agile due to fears about what true change will entail. This is a common reason for failure. Agile is a mindset as much as a methodology. It can and should be implemented across day-to-day aspects of business if you want to ensure a successful transition. For example, weekly meetings can incorporate a focus on:

  • Assessing the value delivered to stakeholders rather than simply checking off actions performed; and,
  • Reviewing lessons learned with the goal of immediate improvement in processes going forward.

Tip #2: Piggyback Agile on a Finished Project

One of the best ways to experiment with Agile is to use it to make changes to an existing deliverable. The hard part (e.g., delivering a working product) is already completed. This means the risk is comparatively low. The iterative approach of Agile is ideally suited to making incremental improvements on something that already works. The test-as-you-go quality control functionality helps ensure you don’t “break” the product. Once your organization grows accustomed to the benefits of a continuous deployment model made possible with Agile project management, it’s easier to win over top-level stakeholders.

Tip #3: Choose an Internal “First Project”

Remember that Agile can be used for both internal and external projects. In most cases, it’s prudent to do a start-to-finish test run with Agile on an internal project before involving external customers. Use this trial run to:

  • Determine which employees are well-suited for the highly collaborative nature of Agile project teams
  • Ensure vendors and independent contractors are on board with participating in your transition endeavor
  • Work out the kinks in using communication and PM software tools in new ways
  • Identify potential saboteurs before they have a chance to ruin an important client relationship
  • Prove to internal stakeholders that Agile really can be cost effective while delivering business value

Tip #4: Expand Your Reach

When it’s time to expand your Agile circle to include your customers (internal or external to your organization), this adds a whole new layer of complexity. You may actually want to assign an “Agile Evangelist” with Agile project management and change management experience to introduce the new approach to customers. The individual must know how to focus on benefits, explain features, and offer step-by-step instructions on how the client can become more involved. Don’t try to transition all your customers at once. Pick a few projects that are likely to lead to easy successes first. Then, you have a few case studies to demonstrate more reluctant clients.

Tip #5: Be Satisfied with “Agile Enough”

Very few organizations need to become completely Agile across their entire project management portfolio. You might think it’s difficult to determine when Agile has gone “too far” since the methodology isn’t big on traditional documentation and reporting. But if you are tracking business value delivered (the outcome that really matters), it is easier to see when the added value of this approach is beginning to wane. When that happens, it’s important to re-evaluate your options to determine the best way forward. For example, some projects are still being best served with a waterfall approach depending on the nature of the product or the specific stakeholders involved. Fortunately, the ability to reassess and learn as you go is another good skill you learned from the implementation process that can be applied to Agile!

Stay tuned for my upcoming blog on “5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Transitioning to Agile”. In this blog, we’ll cover some of the most disastrous things organizations and project managers do that tank their chances for success.


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