How Project Managers can Stay Relevant in Agile Organizations

Defining Agile Project Management 

Agile project management is an iterative approach to accomplishing a project from start to finish. This means that a project is broken down into measurable iterations, or incremental steps, to be completed by specific deadlines throughout the project’s life cycle. 

To accomplish these goals effectively and on time, this project management system requires leadership to encourage:

  • Clear communication between all team members
  • Realistic project goals
  • Streamlined development practices
  • Accurate evaluation 
  • Agreed-upon system requirements
  • Risk management 

Agile project management is defined by its workability. The agile approach adapts as the project develops rather than following a linear method to accomplish an assignment. This system is ideal for projects whose end goal is not yet known or is still evolving. Because of the iterative nature of the approach, plus the continuous communication between software developers, customers, and leadership, agile allows for more comprehensive and holistic development of a project in which every participant is permitted input at each step. Each measurable goal is an opportunity for tests to be conducted and bugs to be identified, which means that the project becomes more robust in incremental steps. 

This agile methodology follows an entirely different modus operandi from traditional linear project management. As software development companies move through this era of rapidly evolving technology, agile practices are becoming increasingly common and increasingly valuable. It begs the question… How can project managers stay relevant in agile organizations, where traditional linear approaches of following predetermined plans have become obsolete with modern software development endeavors? 

1) Understand why your organization has adopted Agile

As a project manager, you are responsible for organizing, planning, and leading your team to the completion of a project. If your organization has adopted agile, it is your job to understand why this system is necessary for your style of project development and how your team will best benefit from it. Start by familiarizing yourself and your team with the Agile manifesto and its core values of communication, flexibility, collaboration, and accountability. 

2) Rethink milestones and redefine measurable success 

There is no right or wrong way to begin implementing agile methodology into your project management system. Still, the typical linear approach to project management that most PMs have been trained in will not work for Agile organizations. In the past, you may have led your software developers through a project to a defined end goal. Agile companies move much more quickly through incremental goals, and even these incremental goals may change as your team identifies and fixes issues. Measuring daily success is significantly more subjective and less definable than traditional linear goals, which is why transparency and close contact with your team are non-negotiable. 

One of the most intuitive and popular frameworks to implement agile management of incremental goals is through Scrum. 

3) Implement Agile through Scrum

Scrum is a subset of agile and is one of the most intuitive and popular ways for implementing agile methodology. With Scrum, you will lead your team through “sprints” lasting one to two weeks long, at the end of which the team will collaborate with stakeholders to plan the next phase of the project. In addition to holding daily scrum meetings to go over daily goals, bugs, and concerns, a project manager’s role is integral to planning and reflecting on the team’s sprints. 

Pre-Sprint Planning: Before each sprint, the project manager will meet with the scrum team to prioritize items on the product backlog or record all the desired features for the product. After identifying the essential things to complete, the project manager will collaborate with the team to assign tasks. The items are moved from the backlog to the sprint backlog. 

Post-Sprint Retrospective: After the one to two-week sprint, the entire scrum team will meet again to reflect on what went well regarding team members, collaboration, processes, tools, and whether or not they accomplished their desired goals. The project manager leads their scrum team through this discussion, then identifies what the team will commit to improving for the next sprint. 

4) Adopt an Agile framework of thinking 

A traditional PM turned agile PM may need to adjust their entire approach to leadership. To align to the company’s new framework, a PM should do their best to exemplify and encourage agile core values in themselves and their team, including: 

  • Exceptional organizational skills and the ability to identify and remove roadblocks that could obstruct the team’s means of accomplishing their primary goals. 
  • Thorough communication skills
  • Critical thinking, including the ability to improvise and tackle problems from new angles
  • Flexibility and the willingness to change goals as needed 
  • Strong leadership skills even under pressure 

Each team operates in its own way, but a project manager must motivate their team to deliver high-quality work to clients. By familiarizing themselves with the agile framework, project managers can be strong authorities in encouraging accountability within their teams.

5) Professional development training 

Project managers new to the agile framework may benefit from formal training. Prominent certification programs for project managers include: 

Certifications and credentials from The International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile), Scaled Agile Academy and ScrumAlliance are also reputable and popular certifications for new agile project managers. 

Staying relevant through an organization’s transition to agile project management is as simple as wholly embracing the agile framework - and being an active voice in encouraging the team to do so as well! 

Agile Project Management

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Topics: software development projects, Agile Software Development, agile project management, project management