Project managers the world over build Gantt charts, PERT charts, Work Breakdown Structures. They focus on delivering on-time, on-budget.
No matter your role, is there something that can be learned from the profession of project management?
In the olden days – and sadly, “today” for many organizations – the most common project management approach is the so-called waterfall approach:
- Market research
- Analysis of requirements
- Technical specification
- Final testing
This approach allowed for clear approvals at each stage, and cleverly separated the “client” of the project from those actually doing the work.
Unfortunately, this methodology has some significant disadvantages, chiefly that because of this separation, there is little or no collaboration during the project itself. Said another way, the ground can shift during long projects, and therefore the needs may change significantly from the project start to project launch.
Enter Agile. While the dictionary defines agile as “the ability to move quickly and easily”, from a project management perspective, agile means something very specific. Instead of a long, drawn-out process, an agile process divides the project into a number of cycles, called sprints. Each sprint would have three parts:
- Build: Something is put together (a prototype, a pilot, etc)
- Test: The kinks are worked out of the system.
- Demo: Feedback is collected for action during the next sprint.
Agile provides a number of advantages over the traditional waterfall approach:
- Real-time market research is embedded into the process.
- There is collaboration and connection to the target users.
- Continuous mid-course corrections and improvements.
- Lower project risk, since progress is demonstrated continuously.
- Faster time-to-market.
This week’s action plan: While the example above might be for a digital development project, agile can be used anywhere. Consider the projects that you are connected with: how many are managed traditionally, and how many are agile? This week, begin the process of moving at least one to agile.
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