Agile management

How agile management can make our projects more successful and efficient

Agile management, the short version

Agile management is a workflow philosophy and framework that emphasizes self-managing teams that deliver project requirements in iterations and increments (rather than all at once at the very end) and allows requirements to evolve over time. Ultimately, agile helps make better, more user-centered products in less time.

Agile management, the longer version

Anyone who has worked on a professional project knows how it usually goes: The boss hands down the instructions from on high, you spend a long time planning how to deliver, you implement your plans, you test your products, perhaps you review and refine, and then you deploy your product, and you’re done. Each of the steps can take months to complete.

This is called “waterfall” project management. It’s linear and sequential. There are concrete steps and you never go back, just like you never go back up the waterfall once you go down it.

There are several potential problems with this approach. Most importantly, if you spend months planning and building before you test and validate the basic idea of your product, what happens if it’s not what your customers or clients want? You’ve wasted tons of time and money.

“Agile” management addresses this problem. Under agile, rather than having one long plan, build, test, deploy sequence, the team institutes several cycles often just a week or two in length. You launch a “potentially shippable product” or “minimum viable product” as quickly as humanly possible, with as little planning as possible. You then test that product, understanding what is most hindering it from providing maximum value to the client. You then run another cycle to build and deliver another product feature addressing that core hindrance, and on and on.

This series of short “sprints” helps your project team quickly and relatively cheaply validate what is truly valuable, while also building in flexibility that allows you to adapt to changing circumstances in the world. Each sprint gives you a new opportunity to understand and adapt to what you perceive to be the customers’ core needs at that moment.

agile project vs waterfall project
Agile vs. Waterfall project management. Source: Redbooth

There are many specific methodologies for implementing the more broad agile management philosophy and framework. Perhaps the most well-known methodology is called “Scrum.” Sometimes, people conflate or confuse “agile” and “scrum.”  Remember that a scrum methodology is one of many ways to implement agile values. Others include Kanban, XP, and FDD.

Can your organization or team benefit from a more nimble, agile approach to project management?

Agile management, in practice

Agile For All is an Agile and Scrum consulting firm dedicated to encouraging and facilitating implementation of agile principles.

It guides companies through the nuances and challenges required to adopt Agile techniques, principles and values, drawing from processes such as Scrum and XP, Kanban, Lean Thinking, Theory of Constraints, psychology, anthropology, and more.

Agile for All provides training and coaching for teams, organizations, and individuals.

To learn more, go to:

Recommended reading

The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done

by Stephen Denning

An unstoppable business revolution is under way – and it is Agile. Companies that embrace Agile Management learn to connect everyone and everything…all the time. They can deliver instant, intimate, frictionless value on a large scale.

More Brighter Futures

Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the Executive Director of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, two sons, and cat. Learn more about Peter's store here.

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