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Understanding Agile: work faster, do less

By Paul Wilson

Agile is process driven. It is flexible and fluid, always evolving and adapting according to the project and teams. 

Declan Collins, development manager at project management advisory company HQ Management, says it’s about simplicity  breaking things down into simple language which allows you to focus on what is really needed instead of being distracted by terminology, documentation and broader deliverables.   

The Agile approach was first used by IT experts, coders and developers when developing computer software, hence the wording of Agile’s original 12 principles have a software slant.  

But these principles can be adapted to many industries and are now embedded in the way many organisations set up their project management frameworks. 

Principles of Agile as they apply to project management:  

1 Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery 

Make your process more efficient and minimise time needed for each stage of the project. Fulfil top priority requirements first and continuously communicate about the project’s progress. Ensure you deliver on a solution that solves the problem. Do this every step of the way. 

2 Welcome changing requirements, even late in development 

Using Agile means your team is flexible throughout the project. No formal documentation or approvals are required and this makes things happen quickly, improving both customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.  

3 Frequent deliverables (weeks rather than months) 

This means you can split your projects into smaller components on which to fully deliver, instead of spending a lot of time on the planning and documentation for 100 per cent completion of the project. Again, happy stakeholders and a faster process.  

4 Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project 

Close collaboration between the business and the technical team is vital for Agile because it reduces documentation, allows for change/flexibility and for potential issues to be quickly solved. If the necessary people can’t be in the same place, you can use task management software (i.e. Gantt charts) and online conferencing calls to communicate.  

5 Build projects by trusting motivated individuals 

Give people the environment and support they need to get the job done – don't micromanage and neither have a top down approach.  

“Motivation – again, giving people that buy-in and empowering them to share that common vision  really allows you to deliver in the most efficient way,” Collins says.   

6 Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient form of communication 

Experts say 55 per cent of communication is visual. Use it. Face-to-face provides quick answers to questions and better solves confusion or problems. Collins advises that you may incur some extra fees by having additional meetings “but if it’s integral component of your project, it’s a required cost”. 

7 A working product is the primary measure of progress 

Nothing replaces a working prototype or product, or a milestone reached and finished. It needs to be finished and working properly with no hang overs. 

8 Sustainable development and a constant pace for all 

The Agile methodology believes everyone should work at a constant pace without burnout, exhaustion or boredom. The methodologies seek a work-life balance, and for work to be done in short productive bursts. Setting the right pace and having everyone moving together at the same pace is crucial.   

9 Reflection on technical excellence and good design to enhance agility 

Collins says this is about lessons learned and realisation 

“If you are continually reviewing what you’re doing and questioning and challenging yourself and embedding your lessons learned, you will be more sustainable and encourage excellence in design and innovations,” he says 

So, it’s pushing the norm, thinking outside the box and encouraging that thought. If you set too tight parameters, people won’t then think outside the box. 

You can shut yourself off and miss real opportunities and at the end of the day, one missed opportunity can be the difference towards success.” 

10 Simplicity and deciding what you don’t need to do 

Break down each item you do and don’t need to focus onTake things off the list and move on. The idea is to maximise the amount of work that is not done.  

It is about understanding that 80 per cent of the success comes from 20 per cent of your efforts and looking at how you can drill down to only do that 20 per cent for a high outcome.  

What is essential to create value for the project’s results and not distract?  

11 Self-organising teams 

Hire the right people and let team members choose the jobs they are interested in with self-organisation 

Teams have autonomy and the responsibility to work out how they will accomplish the goals.  

The project manager intervenes when a problem arises that cannot be solved, if there are personality issues or if there are warning signs.  

12 Be reflective 

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior.  

By reflecting at the end of each iteration the lessons learned can be taken through to the next stage to make the project more efficient and with a better-quality outcome. 

Agile is process driven. It is flexible and fluid, always evolving and adapting according to the project and teams. 

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