Agile project management is all the rage, with 84% of companies using agile as at least a part of their project management methodology. There’s a good reason agile is so popular. It’s responsive to needed change, it’s team driven, and it’s effective. You don’t need to be an expert in agile to be able to use some of its concepts in your practice. Here are some agile strategies and tips for any project manager, novice to expert.
Simplify the Workflow
Like a Kanban board, agile simplifies the workflow to basic states. This allows for quick estimation of where something is at, right now – without any prevarications. In Proggio, we use five basic states:
- To do – work that hasn’t been started
- In review – work that is about to start and is in the planning phase
- In progress – work that has been started and is in the active phase
- Completed – work that has finished its active phase and is being wound down
- Done – work that is finished, approved, and meets all needs
You can choose any number, from two (to do and done) and on. The number isn’t the key. Your team can move quicker and be on top of what’s going on, plus dialed in to the tasks at hand, at all times with a simpler workflow.
Optimize the Workflow
OK, you’ve simplified things for the team. Now it’s time to optimize it, too. You want to look at the project as a whole, here.
- What’s been completed so far?
- Is the backlog (“to do”) growing over time or is the team matching the pace?
- Are there bottlenecks that are holding progress back?
- How long does it take a task to go from “to do” to “done?”
When you’ve analyzed this, you can introduce time controls to the workflow. Make sure there is a constant and controlled flow, with no bottlenecks or buildup. You want a steady amount of work coming down the pipeline for the team (and each team member), keeping them fully utilized but not overworked. Bottlenecks and issues will be immediately identifiable, and over time you will be able to ramp up capacity and throughput.
Using Stories, Epics, Initiatives, and Themes
Agile project management uses four basic elements to structure its work. Stories are short requirements, from the perspective of an end user. Epics are bigger bodies of work, that are a collection of stories. Initiatives are collections of epics. Themes are focus areas on the organizational level.
You can see a four part hierarchy that encompasses every item the team is working on. This creates a structure for all work being done, keeping things on track and on target. Whatever your structure will be, structuring your work as a hierarchy will help your team stay focused on its goals and working towards success.
You don’t need to implement agile project management in its entirely to borrow from its arsenal of effective tools. Simplify and optimize the workflow, and use structural hierarchies to keep the team working focused on the target. Using these elements of agile will help your project succeed.