What Does Agile Mean in Project Management?

What does Agile mean in Project Management

Agile is a hot topic in the business world and everything should be agile today to make us faster and better. But many don’t understand “what being agile” means and how Agile Project Management evolved. Does agility really take our business world a big step forward or is it just a ” fad “? This article gives you an insight what caused the “Agile Euphoria”, what Agile and Agility really means and how it shapes project management.

Agile is the Latest Trend

Everyone is talking about Agile Project Management and agility and I almost missed this “trend”. But this also happens to me with other trends, e.g. fashion—where I refuse most trends anyway!

At Amazon.com there are more and more books about agility: the agile company, agile leadership, agile project management, agile without planning, agile facilitation, agile negotiation, etc. Is everything now becoming agile in the economy, or is this a trend that will soon subside again?

The Agile Manifesto

The term “agile” in relation to projects was coined in spring 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was signed. This was the first time that the agile values related to software development were described. These were described in pairs, with the values on the left being rated higher than the values on the right. But this does not mean that they are meaningless.

The Agile Manifesto reads as follows:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

“That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more”.

I would rather call the agile values of the Agile Manifesto “principles of agile software development”, so that they are not confused with the Scrum values.

The Agile Manifesto May be Misunderstood or Misinterpreted

The Agile Manifesto may be misunderstood or misinterpreted, so the statements were explained in more detail by the authors of the Manifesto through twelve principles.

For example, it is not the opinion that there should be no more documentation. The documents were several hundred pages long, and nobody reads or maintains them.

At the center of the principles is the human being, whether the project team or the customer. The agile principles are an essential guideline for successful agile projects, and they are still fully valid today.

These are Twelve Agile Principles behind the Agile Manifesto:

  1. Satisfy the customer: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver frequently: Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Provide support and trust: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
  6. Personal communication: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a Scrum Team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working Software: Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Sustainable pace: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Pursuit of technical excellence: Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity is essential: Simplicity is the art of maximizing the amount of work that is not done.
  11. Acting self-organized: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. Inspection & adaption: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

If you look at these twelve principles, you will see that most are applicable not only to agile software projects, but to all project management methods or project types, with the human being at the center, be it the project team or the client.

What is Agility?

The world around us is changing faster than ever. For a business to succeed, what is often known as “business agility” is paramount. Business agility is responding to changing customer demand, market conditions, new technology entrants and even legislation or customer perceptions.

Agility in Project Management is the characteristic of speed, light weight and adaptability. This includes:

  • The ability to innovate and adapt in a rapidly changing business environment.
  • The ability to quickly reprioritize resources as requirements, technology and knowledge change.
  • React quickly to market changes and emerging trends through intensive customer contact.
  • Use evolutionary, incremental and iterative methods to deliver an optimal customer solution.

Summarized, agility means: Being agile to respond quickly to changes, with the goal of maximizing business value, with the right solution at the right time.

Agile is the trend and I think agility will become more and more important in the project environment – not only in software development, but also in approaches to projects according to the waterfall model. In other areas, however, I have great doubts, although there too more agility would be necessary.

If I look back about twenty or thirty years, I can still remember that lean management, business process reengineering, Six Sigma or knowledge management were the latest trends. Promising management methods from my point of view. However, these have only established themselves in very few companies or functional areas. Self-organizing teams are also an old hat. They were also successfully deployed in Japanese and individual American companies many decades ago—but these too were largely forgotten until Agile Project Management revived them.

Being agile with the goal of maximizing business value, with the right solution at the right time.

This was a brief overview of what is meant by agility in the project environment. In the next article you will learn more about which projects are suitable for agile project management and how to use it optimally.

What experience have you had with agility and agile projects? Do you agree with my statements or do you have another view or additions? Share your experience with me and the readers in the comment box below. Thank you!


Want to learn more about how to make your agile projects and Scrum even more successful? My book How to Successfully Apply Agile Project Management and Scrum takes you an important step further!

Posted in Agile Project Management.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *