Agile Project Management: 10 Tips from the Masters

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Agile project management comes with several benefits for the company using it. Understanding agile methodology and aligning this with company values and vision is essential if the company hopes to leverage agile for growth.

Agile’s key plank is the facilitation of stakeholder and team engagement during a project. This creates transparency and encourages mutual collaboration for efficient project management.

The use of sprints guarantees you early and expected delivery achieved on schedule and at predictable costs. The agile model allows for change mid iteration and, in the process, improves quality while keeping the focus on users and business value.

Agile is an excellent tool for software development that project managers can adopt for their teams. Here are ten tips from the masters to guide you.

  1. Set the agenda and clear the way

The project scrum master must set clear sprint goals in consultation with the product owner for the team. Once the goals are set, and the project is underway, stay alert to emerging issues that may hamper progress and have these addressed on the sprint by one of your team members.

Clearing impediments is the master’s responsibility to ensure the team concentrates on the assigned stories for the sprint milestone.

Masters must lead in action while demonstrating fidelity to best agile practices in their project management. Conceptualize all project work in a transparent manner that involves the product owner and your team in candid conversations on the expected stories.

To steer the project successfully, review to inject improvement or to change tact when one course fails to breakthrough.

  1. Set a vibrant rhythm

After setting sprint goals, avoid falling in a whirlpool of development stagnation lacking in traction towards the finish line. To achieve this, always ask your team to provide deliverables in phases as you sprint to the finish line to anchor your progress.

Working with milestones and set budgets allows you to work smart and dynamic, always responding to changing circumstances and rearranging priorities while still delivering finished story points.

Development velocity is vital to your project and defines its validation. Speed as a key performance indicator is the number of story points completed successfully and accepted per week or iteration.

Keep a close watch on velocity, escalating as necessary for the agile process to achieve weekly targets for testing that will provide quick feedback or acceptance.

  1. Optimize agile with lean development

The agile methodology is excellent for faster project completion at minimum risk, which is a good thing for the product owner. However, agile does not contemplate the question of what to build or even why to make. It presupposes the existence of a project proposal and proceeds to execute the development.

For best results, combine agile with lean development to produce defined features for better returns on investment (ROI). Lean development strives to validate assumptions through existing market data and experimentation.

When paired with agile development, the process moves with increased efficiency on a clear set of features while generating less wastage during the process. This combination not only guarantees efficiency and working with purpose but also ensures a higher rate of acceptance across milestones.

  1. Track daily burn down

At the start of the project, you must discuss and set metrics and their application to every sprint daily. Create the race Burndown chart to guide the team in its work and update the product owner on progress.

As you clear arising issues and impediments to allow your team’s progress, revise the milestones on the Burndown chart so that everyone rearranges priorities to keep work on track and schedule.

The Burndown chart involves the developers who form the team, the product owner, and the scrum master, with all parties working in tandem to achieve the overall project objective. It helps to track pending work in a sprint backlog, how fast the team accomplished tasks and forecast possible completion date.

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  1. Put in place cross-functional support

You are developing a product for an organization that has multiple departments whose input and support is critical to your team’s success. It is, therefore, imperative that you bring on board all those involved at the inception of the project to draw on their support once started.

With everyone on board and participating in the Burndown chart, you save time on cooperation through quick responses from all departments.

Failure to include everyone at the start could cost you valuable time in achieving set milestones on your Burndown chart and compromise overall performance. It is your duty as Scrum master, to understand your project well and foresee such eventualities before they happen so that you remove any impediments from your team’s work plan.

  1. Introduce and size the stories

Arrange for an interactive session between the product owner and your team, where the owner introduces top candidate stories, including their purpose and details. This will allow your team to ask any pertinent questions for clarification before project commencement. The mutual interaction helps the group form a clear concept of what the product owner aspires to achieve and can then actualize this in the design.

After discussions with the product owner, the team breaks down the stories into sizes to come up with estimates for implementation. Use sizing techniques like the Bucket system or planning Poker to determine estimates based on actual story points.

Whichever technique you use for your agile estimation, encourage discussion to gain more information on the items, understand and respect solutions, and engender team commitment to the Burndown chart.

  1. Task down the story

To work efficiently, you must break down the user story into tasks that then guide the development progress. Describe the tasks with clarity of intending avoiding general terms; for example, instead of describing a job like coding, you go a step farther and list the various aspects of coding needed individually and in sequence.

Monitor your progress against the Definition of Done (DoD) checklist to make sure not a single step is missed at the end of the sprint.

Optimize task sizes for efficiency in the utility of time and resources, preferably going for task sizes that can be completed in under 8 hours. Using hours to estimate a task is ideal on the Burndown chart and helps teams keep track of their task progress.

  1. Avoid bug overwhelm

Allocate time in each sprint for finding and fixing errors to avoid bug overwhelm or release of a product riddled with bugs to customers. It is more natural and more effective to set bug fixes as a task to allow for thorough scrutiny than when you expect team members to fix as they develop.

Enhance collaboration between support and development to get contextual information on errors in good for a quick resolution.

In agile practice, frequent changes to the developer’s workflow are common, and this, at times, leaves bug fixing unattended while trying to keep up with changes.

Some bugs use these changes to make repeat appearances and may go unnoticed. It is, therefore, prudent to build a test immediately whenever you find a bug, that you can use later to clean your code.

  1. Align your goals in agile

To find and align your organization’s goals with agile best practices, the executive must learn, internalize, and adopt the principles and critical values of agile.

Leadership must define reasons for shifting to agile and then align to the organization’s vision and goals. Next, get a transformational leader and team to drive and direct the change, and for better results, external expertise may be required.

Invest in individuals and teams setting clear goals, objectives, and reviews while consistently revising to align with the organization’s vision. Put in place a fair reward system and encourage learning from mistakes made to gain better standards.

  1. Recognize your limitations in agile

Sometimes what we hoped to get with a new system just does not happen. Instead of hanging on stubbornly hoping to make it work, it is prudent to step back and face reality. If agile is not suited to your business system, ditch it for something that works.

One reality about agile is that it works best in emerging environments where uncertainty is rife. In such situations, agile is good for you because its key elements are fast solutions at less to no risk, which takes care of uncertainty. When in stable or evolving environments, consider other tools such as lean development for relevance.

Conclusion

Like many project management methodologies in use, agile is only as good as the environment it is deployed in, along with the development team. Correctly aligned with the organization’s objectives and looked at holistically, it can revolutionize project management while infusing a culture of continuous innovation. The agile model can help companies create dynamic teams for intricate projects and deliver successfully.

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