Imagine you are remodeling your kitchen. You submit your design to your contractor, and in a couple of months of planning and hard work, you have a remodeled kitchen. But after a week of using this kitchen, you decide that you want more drawers. To remove a cupboard and replace it with drawers at this point would be very expensive and challenging to do.
Now imagine that the contractor you hired works a bit differently. At the end of the first stage, before the cupboards are set, they invite you in to see how things look. You have been cooking at someone else’s house and find that you want to incorporate more drawers into your kitchen. Together, you and the contractor decide to take out one of the lower cupboards and put in a bank of drawers instead.
The project is complete; you are satisfied and know that you are now working in your dream kitchen. You think the contractor is a genius and recommend them to all of your family and friends. What the contractor did was apply the principles of agile methodology to your kitchen project.
The same applies to any project you undertake in business. Sometimes, the original plan isn’t quite as complete as you thought it would be at first and have to make adjustments during the process to create the optimal solution. Agile project management allows you and your team to make observations and decisions during the process, and make iterations on what you imagine the final solution to be.
What Is Traditional Project Management?
In traditional project management, the project manager and team members develop a plan. Throughout the project, they stick to this plan and include documentation along the way. At the end of the project, they present the final product to the client.
What happens when the client isn’t satisfied, though? In most cases, it’s back to the drawing board. Scrapping the product, and the team starts all over again. This is highly inefficient and can be utterly unproductive if the customer rejects the final product.
What Is Agile Project Management?
When a project manager uses the agile methodology, the team works in short bursts of time, sometimes referred to as a sprint. With dependencies and project scope, these sprints can be anywhere from one week to four weeks or more.
The first sprint will define specific results, but the agile methodology is fluid. At the end of the first sprint, the product or concept idea is shown to the client. The client gets to deliver immediate feedback to the team. Next, the team takes this feedback and applies it to the next sprint. This allows for constant tweaking of the product throughout the entire project.
Practical Differences Between Traditional and Agile Project Management
Traditional project management does not allow for much tweaking of the final product. Consider the kitchen project referenced above.
With traditional project management, the contractor would tell the team what to do, and they would do it. The contractor would supervise and make suggestions but not contact the homeowner. At the end of the project, the completed project would be revealed. With traditional project management, there was a lot of planning done beforehand. The construction company measured and looked up prices and maybe even helped design the kitchen. Then, they followed their plan to the end.
Agile project management allows for more flexibility. Since it also includes close communication with the client, there is a much higher chance that the client will be satisfied with the finished product. It is also more adaptable to change, which is an essential point in today’s fast-paced world.
Especially in technological industries, things can change so quickly that if a project’s deadline is in six months, the technology may have changed by then. Using the agile methodology ensures that technology can be updated as necessary.
Consider the traditional kitchen remodel scenario where the final project is app development. Let’s say the team was asked to present the final app to the client three months after the initial order. During that time, there was a major Google update that would affect how the app runs. However, the app development team followed the plan laid out for them and did not make the necessary tweaks to the app.
Now, the app is useless to the client, and they reject it. With agile project management, as soon as the Google update happened, the necessary changes to the app would also have taken place.
Misconceptions About the Agile Project Management Methodology
Although many sectors have started to apply the agile methodology to their projects, there are still some lingering misconceptions about using this type of structure. Let’s review those misconceptions and lay them to rest.
Agile Project Management Is Appropriate for All Situations
When a project manager first learns of the agile method, they may become very excited about applying these principles to every project they manage. However, there are still times that traditional project management works well and is even the best option for your project. Discuss both methods with your team members and also with the client to determine which method to use.
Agile Does Not Use Documentation
The focus of agile is on short bursts of completed steps, not on documenting every bit of progress. However, this does not mean there isn’t any documentation. Recording each step, or sprint is still essential.
An Agile Project Management Approach Requires Less Planning
For some reason, the concepts of agile read to some people as less planning, more action. While more action may be accurate, the less planning part is not. The planning is done over shorter periods versus writing out the entire plan before you start.
Agile Project Management Delivers Faster Results
Constant collaboration with the client can mean a faster result. Problems can be seen and dealt with quickly. However, this does not mean that using the agile methodology guarantees more rapid results. Sometimes it will lead to having to extend the deadline. When the product is delivered to the client, though, the client will be satisfied with the result.
As a project manager, you are responsible for how your team members use their time. Using the agile methodology can work for certain sectors and most projects. It is up to you, as the project manager, to determine the best way for your team to work efficiently and deliver results to the client.
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