How to Make Your Traditional Project Management More Agile

Agile project management and especially Scrum has been successfully established in many companies since the Agile Manifesto in 2001, especially for software development projects. For most projects, however, agile project management is not the best method. Traditional project management, however, can still learn a lot from agile methods and thus make projects even more successful. In this article, you will learn a few practices for this. Curious? Then read on quickly.

Agile Project Management Has Been a Top Topic for Many Years

Agile project management has been a top topic in the project world for many years. It really got going with the Agile Manifesto in 2001. In recent years, some companies, especially in the financial services sector, have set the goal of transforming themselves into agile companies and carrying out all their projects in an agile way, but also making the organization and management more agile. This with the goal of developing solutions faster, using resources more efficiently and establishing a new agile work culture.

Especially in the software area, where it is often necessary to react quickly to market needs and continuously deliver new functionalities, updates, improvements, agile projects are often the right way to go. For all other projects, agile methods do not make sense from my point of view. However, this doesn’t mean that certain agile practices can also be very useful there.

Read in this article Why Agile Project Management is not suitable for most projects.

In the next sections you will find a few agile practices that have some potential to make your traditional project management even more powerful.

Agile Practices that Make Your Traditional Project Management Even More Successful.

Shorter, detailed planning cycles: (Sprints, Sprint Planning) Plan with your team the next 4 weeks of the project in great detail and the later activities with less detail. This is called rolling wave planning in traditional projects. The best way to do this is to hold a half-day planning meeting every month, similar to sprint planning in Scrum. The detailed monthly planning creates pressure and you can monitor the current progress in more detail afterwards. There is no need to define sprints in traditional projects. Shorter planning cycles, more detailed planning, and more frequent monitoring are enough!

Daily Scrum: Make your status meetings much shorter, more structured, and more frequent. The more often the meetings take place, the shorter they should be. This gives you more precise progress control, and deviations and problems are discovered and tackled earlier. In Scrum, you have daily Scrums that last 15 minutes. In your traditional project, have at least one or two 30-60 minute status meetings every week. For time-critical or short projects, even a short daily meeting can be useful.

Stable team: Try to have a stable team, especially for longer projects, with members who preferably only work on your project and not on several other projects or line work. If the team can also work cross-functionally, all the better. A team that knows each other well and for a long time is much more efficient. You can also consider splitting up large teams, for example teams that have more than 10 team members. This will improve coordination, communication, and general cooperation within the team.

Self-organizing teams: Even in traditional projects, project managers can delegate responsibility to the team. This motivates and generates ownership for the work. Then the project functions even if the project manager is absent for a few weeks.

Delegating authority to the team: Delegating more authority to the team is a fundamental aspect of agile project management and should also be practiced in traditional projects, especially in the context of self-organizing teams. This allows team members to take on more responsibility and promotes team collaboration. It also enables faster decision making and improves adaptability to changing circumstances. Delegating authority gives team members a sense of ownership and responsibility for their work, which increases motivation and productivity.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.”

(Agile Manifesto Principle 2001)

Conduct retrospectives: A lessons learned at the end of the project will not help you and your team for the current project. Therefore, do a retrospective, e.g. for a longer project every 2 months and implement the defined actions directly in the further project work.

Visualize more: Visualize your project schedule and progress in a large and visible way for the team and update it at least weekly or more often for short projects. Risks, impediments and other important project parameters should also always be clearly visible to the team. The visualization and the good visibility increase the awareness of each individual for these topics.

Undisturbed environment: Make sure the team can work together in a quiet place if possible. There is nothing worse for productivity than always being disturbed and distracted.

Deliver more often: This will definitely be harder on projects that develop tangible things. Because I can’t deliver half a house or fabrication plant to the customer. Maybe it’s possible to put partial components into operation. If you are developing something non-material, the possibilities for that are often better. But the iterative/incremental approach will mostly not be feasible for traditional projects.

Traditional project management has not really evolved in recent decades. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is more suitable for most projects than the agile approach. However, it is time to adopt some good ideas from agile project management in order to make traditional project management even more efficient and get projects to their destination even faster and more reliably. The practices described in this article will help you to do this.

For large projects or programs that consist of extensive hardware and software components, for example, hybrid project management is a practical approach. Here, you manage most of it with traditional project management and the pure software components of the project in an agile way.

I am a fan of agile project management and Scrum, but I know from my 25 years of experience in traditional projects that agile project management is not the ideal approach for most projects. However, some agile practices from the agile world make traditional projects even more successful. Use this change!

Read more about Why Agile Project Management is not suitable for most projects.

Here You Can Find More Knowledge

Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with Scrum and Agile Project Management? My book Scrum – How to Successfully Apply Agile Project Management and Scrum takes you an important step further!

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Posted in Agile Project Management.