Agile Project Management: Refining the Tactics of Productivity

“Agility means that you are faster than your competition. Agile time frames are measured in weeks and months, not years.” — Michael Hugos, American business writer.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” — Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.

Agile Project Management: Refining the Tactics of Productivity by Laura Stack #productiIn recent years, a surprising amount of business theory and management innovation has emerged from the software industry. Anyone who's ever been involved in software production knows that there are few business crucibles where the product development process moves faster, and the pressure to produce is higher. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that the concept of Agile Project Management (APM) emerged from this field.

In the go-go-go approach to modern business, APM is imminently applicable to most fields. It's antithetical to the classic Implementing APM

That’s all well and good for software creation, but how can APM work for your business? Good question. Frankly, it may not— at least not readily. But there are very few projects APM can’t improve. Try this the next time the boss hands your team a new project:

1. Examine it carefully. Look at the project from all angles, focusing on the needs and requirements first. Think about where and how you can split the project into discrete pieces that particular team members or sub-teams can handle. Even if the project seems unsplittable, is it really?

Most of us have become so accustomed to the sequential method that we never even consider breaking down a project and then reassembling it once we’ve completed each section. But even some things we consider seamless are actually made this way. For example, film crews have used the piecemeal method for decades. They often shoot unrelated scenes back-to-back based on factors like weather, actor availability, lighting, access to a particular location, etc. Often, one crew shoots one set of scenes as a second unit shoots another.

2. Cut the diamond. You can easily “part out” some projects, but will have to deal with others a bit more carefully. Whatever the case, once you’ve determined you can split the project into pieces, do so. Take your little chisel and tap it carefully with the hammer to break it up…or just remove a few screws, as the case may be. Hand the pieces out to the people best suited for them, complete with their own milestones and deadlines.

3. Build in flexibility. There’s a reason why your skeleton consists of many articulated pieces that can bend and stretch in a variety of directions. Your bones could be a lot stronger if your arms, legs, spine, and the like were all single pieces, but if that were true, you’d sacrifice all flexibility and agility—and that’s just not acceptable. A project built from many independent parts is naturally more flexible than a “waterfall” project, more easily absorbing the need for changes, additional testing, and new features as they arise. You can also implement feedback more quickly. Think of the difference between the movements of a clunky programmed robot and a panther, and you’ll see why APM is preferable.

4. Put it back together. As individual sections of the project come in, slide them in place, leaving space for the later bits. It’s a modular process, allowing greater flexibility in terms of time, resource allocation, and budgeting. This requires careful planning and preparation, perhaps more so than traditional project management; but ultimately, it not only saves time, it makes decision-making easier and eliminates waste, since you don’t have to wait until the end to cut out what doesn’t work and go to a lot of effort to graft in better concepts and new features.

You can learn a lot from software designers and film crews. Loosen up your project with APM, and you can easily build in flexibility and the agile approach you need in order not just to succeed, but to blow people away—and you don’t have to sacrifice a speck of quality to do it.






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Comments

  1. Jeffrey Fischer says:

    Laura,

    What a great blog. I am going to be passing on the link to many of my friends in the Agile technical community and as an Agile Business Development practicer your column is a “mandatory get-it” reading piece for senior management. You knocked it out of the park!!!

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