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Six Success Factors For Agile Project Management

A lack of knowledge transfer, flexibility, and long planning cycles can cause even large projects to fail. To make assignments of any size a success, six factors are crucial.

Elbphilharmonie, Berlin Airport, or Stuttgart 21: a lack of flexibility and long planning cycles have doomed these projects to failure. With agile methods, the implementation is usually not only faster but also less error-prone. Six factors are decisive to implement a project elegantly and lead it to success:

The Organization In The Company Influences The Agile Process

Many organizations operate in silos that are often based on the core areas of the business, such as research and development, marketing, or sales MR. Marketing, for example, is divided into online marketing and social media or end customers and business customers. Others are structured on a country-specific basis, which can also hinder the exchange between company units. Numerous small isolated teams lead in practice to a lack of knowledge transfer. Decisions are therefore not made quickly enough – the projects require the knowledge of the specialist departments, but the specialists are often not available promptly.

Agile management reverses the flow of information. Companies such as Liip AG are organized: Small, interdisciplinary, self-sufficient units develop products entirely autonomously. In this case, the information flows are directed so that each team can provide something for itself. There is little to coordinate because only the goals are agreed upon – the way to get there is up to each group.

The Infrastructure In Agile Processes Creates Faster And Better Information Structures

The information must be able to flow differently in agile projects. This often succeeds because the necessary infrastructure is already in place, and information channels are kept short. In our own companies, for example, the unwritten rule applies: Don’t search, ask! We know that someone with us always has the answer, knows where something is, or has already done something.

Agile working, therefore, requires an infrastructure that enables this quick exchange at a low cost. For example, we found the right communication tool for us in the last few months – Slack. It has practically done away with internal emails, and there is less bilateral communication. We communicate in channels that work like chat rooms. Who can take part can be determined. Dialogue with individuals is also possible. Files can be uploaded and commented on everywhere. Files can be found quickly with the excellent search function.

Know-How Is Essential To Work In An Agile Environment

Agile working requires different know-how. It starts with mastering how to work with Post-its and ends with changing the way you work entirely. For example, once a week, I trained my team with the help of e-mails to live a revolutionary way of time management – the Pomodoro technique. This assumes that work units of 25 minutes each lead to more productivity. A five-minute break follows this. After four work units, there is a more extended break of 30 minutes.

In this way, we also learned that we are more productive if, for example, we change where we work. Whether in a café, an open workspace, or at home: Learning how to work makes the individual more productive and makes the whole team’s work more effective. Tools support this process. Thanks to my integrated environments (OS X, iOS) and the possibilities of cloud services, I always have my work environment with me.

Product Development With Design Thinking

Agile product development does not begin after the design phase, i.e., the drafting and development phase, but at the very beginning. But how do I know that I’m delivering the right thing if I don’t even know precisely what the customer wants at the beginning? This is possible if you apply the design thinking approach developed by IDEO. Classic requirements management is thereby wholly abolished.

Design thinking assumes that problems can be solved better when people from different disciplines work together in an environment that promotes creativity. The user’s view is taken, and an attempt is made to identify his problem and find solutions for it. This is a paradigm shift compared to the classic approach. There are no requirements. Instead, the product is delivered immediately.

Kanban And Scrum: Recommended Action, But No Instruction

Many think that with the use of the suitable agile model, success comes by itself. However, Scrum or Kanban is a management framework that tells more about what to do than show how to do it. There are some best practices in the agile disciplines, but they exemplify how successes have been achieved in specific projects. For instance, Holtzbrinck-Verlag has successfully implemented Kanban in its legal department.

Both management ideas are designed to allow the individual to work as independently and self-determinedly as possible, and at the same time to show very clearly where the individual stands. However, in many organizations, that is precisely what is not precisely desired – it becomes evident here who is doing what and how much.

Rely On Voluntariness When Guiding

Agile leadership works entirely differently from classic administration, although it has the same external goal: To get people to do what you want them to do. Agile leadership is based on the principle of voluntariness. In companies, we have managed that everyone can do exactly what they want to do. Everyone chooses what they want to work on at any time, as long as they do not harm the community but do it for the team. Anyone who works on a project to which they can no longer contribute leaves it.

This principle comes from Harrison Owen’s Open Space Technology. He called the idea “The law of two feet.” Anyone who feels at a conference that they can no longer contribute or learn anything there is better off looking for another place where they can learn or contribute. It’s the same with us. This principle of voluntariness supports theExecutive. It should ensure that everyone in the team can work as effectively as possible. A ScrumMaster has the same task. His job, for example, is to protect the individual and the group from disruptions. After all, knowledge workers lose much of their effectiveness if they are constantly disturbed.

Also Read: Project Management: The Four Project Types

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