What is the fuss about being Agile

“Agile” is one word you have probably heard about a million times in not only the world of Project Management but in this digital age.

Agile is beyond just a buzzword, it goes beyond being just a project development method but encompasses everything from your mindset to what organizations do in their everyday routines.

According to the Agile Practice Guide; Agile is a blanket term that refers to any kind of approach, technique, framework, method, or practice that fulfills the values and principles of the Agile manifesto.

So what is this rave about Agile? And why should every project manager be Agile?

In this article, I am going to look at the agile methodology and its relevance in our world which has become a global village. I will be addressing this by helping you understand the following:

  • What is Agile Methodology
  • Principles of Agile methodology
  • Agile as a mindset
  • The relevance of Agile in our world today, when it should be used
  • Challenges of the Agile Methodology

What is Agile Methodology

According to the Project Management Institute, the Agile methodology  “​​aims for early, measurable ROI through defined, iterative delivery of product increments.

They feature continuous involvement of the customer throughout the product development cycle.”

To explain the meaning of agile methodology I will share a project briefing scenario between a stakeholder (SH) and a Project leader (PL):

PL: What do you want to build?

SH: I want to build a system that integrates finance, procurement, and HR

PL: What part of this system is the most important to you? What is the biggest value to you?

SH: Hmmm, that will be having all our vendors vetted so that they are able to get their PO

In this scenario, the project leader and her team work to release the part of the system that has the biggest value to the project sponsor.

Therefore, in agile methodology, you deliver value early on.

Agile methodology helps a customer to get business value quickly because the aspect of the project that brings the most value to the customer is fully developed first.

It also gives the customer opportunity to give continuous feedback and make decisions and changes to the project.

Principles of Agile

The agile principles are statements that define the agile methodology and also act as best practices for agile teams.

These principles were created in 2001, by a group of 17 software professionals who codified the agile approach in what they called the “Agile Manifesto”:

  1. The priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Changing requirements are welcome even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
  6. Have face-to-face conversations whenever possible because it is the most effective means of communication.
  7. Success is measured by having a final working product or working software
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. All team members must maintain a constant pace indefinitely
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility
  10. Simplicity- the art of maximizing the amount of work not done- is essential
  11. The best architectures, designs, and requirements emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Agile as a mindset

The 20th century marked a significant shift in the systems of the world with the introduction of the internet which turned the world as we knew it then into a single global society and economy.

The COVID-19 outbreak further caused a paradigm shift in the world and will forever change the way businesses approach the management of projects.

Speed is required to respond to market and customer needs and that is where agile comes in.

Agility goes beyond a project management method but encompasses our mindset in responding to change.

Agility means the ability to quickly adapt and respond to changing business needs. 

The word agility is derived from the Latin word “agere” which means “to drive, act”

From this we can deduct that there are two characteristics of an agile project manager:

  1. “To drive”- Project managers must have a sense of ownership in every project
  2. “To act”- project managers must be able to respond and adapt to change quickly.

The relevance of Agile in our world today, when it should be used

Agile methodology is usually chosen if the requirements of the project are not fully known and there would be lots of changes involved.

Mostly used for software development and R&D projects.

Multinational companies like Netflix, Google, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft to name a few, have to respond to thousands of requests.

Agile provides a fluid environment to adapt and respond to the continuous interactions and feedback they receive. 

Challenges of the agile methodology

The adaptive nature of the agile methodology means that you do not have a full plan from the onset, this could pose a problem in getting financed as there is no fixed scope.

The unpredictability of agile may be a red flag for funding bodies, however, funding bodies can adopt a release funding approach where they fund releases.

Transforming employees’ and organizations’ cultures into being agile could be a challenge.

For older employees or traditional project managers, there might be a gap in fully embracing agile not only as a project method but also as a mindset. 

Effective training especially on the agile mindset and benefits is essential to building an agile culture.

In conclusion,

While we must admit that agile is worth the fuzz, especially in our current world (the waterfall methodology which is more predictive should not be discarded and is still relevant especially when a project has a fixed scope).

We must ensure that we are not among the caliber of project managers who apply a waterfall mindset instead of adopting agile when the project demands it.

What are your thoughts about agile methodology? Do you agree with the article that it is a game-changer? 

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