In a previous post I explored the factors that are key to successful project planning—especially the critical role that Agile practices play in achieving a project’s goals.
In this post I get more specific. Here are five tips for using Agile management practices in the implementation of projects. The tips are gleaned from our experience of implementing transportation management systems, but they can be applied in any project setting.
1. Plan for effective, responsive projects – Welcome change with a controlled approach
- Evaluate project tradeoffs (cost/scope priorities/timeline) in collaboration with your customer. Document all agreed changes.
- Continuously review project risks and opportunities to identify ways to eliminate risks and capture opportunities.
- Include cycles of assessments in your plans.
2. Communicate effectively – Be transparent and welcome feedback
- Team rapport is very important. If possible, plan at least one in-person meeting with the complete team.
- Promote transparent communication with feedback loops at all levels and all stages of the project. Note: excessive communication is never a problem.
- Promote osmotic communication with designated spaces that team members use to exchange project information.
- Set an agenda for each project meeting. “Stand-up meetings” (5-10 minute meetings where participants stand to emphasize the brevity of the meeting) are part of Agile practices that help teams briefly report on project activities and plan for the day.
3. Aim for technical excellence – No quality shortcuts
- Pilot projects and project phases are recommended. A big bang approach, where the full project goes live at once, is usually not a good idea.
- Pairing team members is a valuable Agile practice that can be used not only for programming software, but also to design future solutions.
- Designing a comprehensive testing plan in collaboration with your customer and involving end-users is key to project quality.
- Complete early cycles of testing for critical or new functionalities, and very important, apply customer feedback.
4. Maximize customer value – Minimize non-value added work and requirements
- Concentrate on what is important and valuable for your customer. Understand the WHAT (requirements) as well as the WHY (business drivers/customer challenges) in order to design the best solution.
- Constantly reevaluate the purpose of work done and avoid redundant work. Leverage project management (PM) tools. For example, online PM software with real time sharing of documents and project plans.
- Minimize rework by involving the right team members or users in process reviews. Keep feedback loops open.
- Make work in progress (WIP) visible and drive a culture of minimizing WIP while concentrating on getting things “DONE.” Kanban boards are helpful to show WIP vs. DONE.
5. Apply best practices and lessons learned – Assess and improve the project continuously
- Establish regular check points to assess the project both internally and externally with customer feedback. This provides a complete perspective on how the project is evolving and whether changes are needed.
- During new implementations, review the best practices used in past projects as well as lessons from internal reviews, and consider how they can be applied.
- Team retrospectives—openly discussing challenges and successes to improve the performance of the next stage—is important for Agile project success.
- Keep abreast of general and industry-specific news and best practices.
Successful projects encourage both transparent communication and the pursuit of excellence, with a receptive approach to change. The attitude of project leaders should reflect these values. As the author John Maxwell said, “The pessimist complains about the world. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
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