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Agile project management: what you need to know

by Chloe Baird

**This is an updated post**

Depending on your background or profession, agile working can mean different things to different people.

Some people may see agile as a mindset or culture which fosters collaboration, communication, accountability and growth mindset. Others see agile as an actual framework that can be utilised to manage productivity and quality to ultimately deliver a better customer experience.

Agile is synonymous with technology and IT. That’s because the concept of agile methodology was first developed specifically for software development.

But now, more and more businesses are seeing how it can help them, too. How? Read on to find out.

Agile working can be utilised in different ways to get results.

How does an agile work environment function?

Agile is all about straightforward communication, flexibility, adaptability, accountability and innovation.

In a non-agile environment, a team works towards a project goal until it iscompleted. Think of this as a production line: there is a clear goal and clear instructions on how it should be achieved, and these should not be deviated from. For some organisations, especially those that must adhere to strict safety and legal rules, this method is all that’s required.

In an agile work environment, teams work in short ‘sprints’ and have regular reviews that encourage discussions around progress and improvements. This ensures that everyone is in the loop and is able to share ideas and any new information that comes to light. Just like in the production line method, there is a goal to work towards that must be achieved. But unlike a production line, team members are encouraged to think outside the box, innovate and collaborate with their colleagues to find the best way to accomplish the goal.

Working in an agile environment allows team members to react quickly when a situation changes and new information is received, which can help ensure customer satisfaction.

What are the themes and ideas behind agile working?

Agile is so much more than a buzzword. It’s a mindset, a framework for project management, a way to create a collaborative and productive work environment.  

Here are some of the underlying themes and ideas behind agile:

  • Change is inevitable. The ability to develop, test, pivot quickly and change course if necessary is paramount.
  • Deliver value to the customer and therefore to the business as early as possible. What value can be returned to the customer as early as possible within the process or project?
  • A test and fail mindset approach is encouraged and aims at promoting growth. This is an understanding that embracing your failures can improve your chances of success.
  • Retrospectively monitoring process and progress to identify areas for improvement can help plan and execute future projects.
Agile encourages innovation and collaboration among team members.

How agile management and culture can help businesses grow

Rapid advances in digital technologies have forced businesses to rethink the way they run their everyday operations and manage their employees.

With the fast-paced, fluid evolution of technology, businesses need to keep up and adapt to changes and trends in technology and customer demands.

The adoption of an agile management mindset provides a way for modern businesses to better deal with the accelerated changes in markets caused by digital shifts in technology.

An agile mindset within business has three key characteristics:

  • Success comes from learning, and learning comes from change. The agile mindset ventures enthusiastically toward innovation and change. It’s your adaptability to change and your attitude towards learning new things that moves your company forward.
  • Failure is a necessary feedback mechanism for learning continuously. The more feedback you get, the better you can ultimately deliver project goals. No manager, business owner or employee wants their business or project to fail; but it’s the absence of the fear of failing that will propel your organisation forward.
  • Most importantly, the agile mindset supports continual learning, tolerance of ambiguity, and a collaborative spirit. An agile mindset is not an individual personality trait –  your teams, peers and business must grow with you as your agile mindset evolves, matures and develops.

Agile project management terms you need to know

Here are a few of the most common terms you’ll hear in relation to agile:

  • Scrum – this is an agile framework designed to help teams solve complex problems by using adaptive processes. The aim here is to iteratively add value to the product, provide transparency and learnings for team members, and to utilise the teams’ knowledge to help solve a problem.
  • Scrum Master – the Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum process moves forward as it should in order for the team to complete a project. They facilitate collaboration sessions and liaise with the Product Owner and the rest of the team.
  • Product Owner – usually, the Product Owner is the key stakeholder in a project.
  • Kanban – Kanban is an agile framework. You may have heard the term ‘Kanban board’ before. This is where team members post their workloads on a shared board, physical or otherwise, so that everyone in the team has an idea of capacity and workflow.
  • Extreme programming – this is another agile framework that is more specific to software development.
  • Sprint – as we mentioned above, teams work in short sprints where work is monitored for improvement. This gives the team greater flexibility and the ability to quickly pivot when needed.
  • Stand-up – a stand-up is the term for a team meeting where people have the opportunity to give regular updates and notify others of issues or changes. The people usually involved in a stand-up are the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and the team delivering the project. Stand-ups are commonly held on a daily basis, and they usually last for 10-15 minutes.

Where can I learn more about agile?

Open Colleges has teamed up with Elabor8 to bring you the Introduction to Agile online short course.

This short course is delivered exclusively online, and will teach you key skills and knowledge needed to work effectively in an agile environment.

Learn about the fundamentals of agile, how to develop a growth mindset, Kanban and Scrum frameworks and more.

Whether you’re a manager who wants to get the most out of their team or you’re looking to start a career in an agile work environment, this course can help teach you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed.

What are you waiting for? Enrol today and discover how agile can help you transform the way you work.

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