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10 agile project management tips from the masters
Even if you can talk the agile project management talk, mastering the walk requires hard work. Agile experts share pro tips to take your efforts to the next level
6. Find a smart cadence
“Agile doesn’t have to be a never-ending cycle of development with no finish line in mind. Quite the opposite. Set epics, set milestones, set budgets – just be open to re-prioritize work as you learn new things. Be open to learning along the way and set a cadence where you have set aside time to re-evaluate the remaining work to be done. A good guide we use is, every week we ask ourselves and the project team, ‘What’s the highest-value work we can ship this week?’ and we go from there.
“Carefully monitor development velocity. We define velocity as the number of story points that we’ve completed and accepted each iteration or week. Bugs and chores don’t carry story points; if your velocity stays consistent over time, you’re doing it right. Tee up work in bite-sized chunks. This is critical in order for an agile process to unfold where features can be started and completed within a week, and testing can turn around quick acceptance or feedback.” - Ben Wald, co-founder, Very
7. Get cross-functional support to speed things up
“Your team can follow agile principles to the letter yet still fail because you don’t build within a vacuum. All development teams have to interface with other departments within the organization to retrieve critical information. They can throw a serious wrench into your project if they don’t respect your process. Try to get buy-in from the C-level and have the executive team push these priorities to other departments. Also, plan to get with outside departments at the launch of the project and fill those dependencies early so you aren’t pushing out your deadline as you wait around on someone else.” - Mark Runyon, principal consultant at Improving
8. Prioritize the “what” over the “how”
“The real benefit of agile project management is having the flexibility to achieve a specific business outcome – without knowing in advance the precise steps you’ll take. Focus on achieving that outcome and creating the flexibility to get there in a fixed timeframe and budget.” - Jim Berrisford, chief operating officer for Step5
9. Reward people who drive change on the frontlines
“Agile is the best way for a business to balance constantly changing customer demands and the need to consistently show progress that benefits the customer. It’s applicable to all parts of the business – not just for development and IT – and it’s well worth the effort to implement agile early and often. But the only way to see long-lasting agile change in an organization is to make it appealing. The question is not how to change, but how to convince your team they want to change.
“And the answer is simple: Reward those who engage and drive change. Those who fight it or sit on the sidelines will ultimately see the results and choose appropriately. Convince your team they want to change by rewarding the change you want to see. Too often, our companies and departments flee from change or have it forced on us. And that is inherently bad because it forces us to react rather than be the harbingers of change.” - Robert Reeves, CTO of Datical
10. Find alignment on your goals for agile
“We often tell folks not to assume that agile is a silver bullet. But I think it is more nuanced than that. The best way to ensure that organizational change occurs is to ensure that everyone understands the problem set you are addressing with the word ‘agile,’ and also the outcome you want should those issues resolve.
“Many leaders say that if we implement and add all of these ceremonies, then we will be agile. This often adds significant overhead to an organization that likely doesn’t need it and doesn’t understand why the overhead is being placed onto them. The best bet for me has always been to ask ‘What things we are doing that are counter to the behavior we want the organization to be participating in, that we can try living without?’ instead of asking ‘What new process or tooling are we introducing to fix our problems?’" - Jen Krieger, chief agilist, Red Hat
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