What do project managers need to have “top of mind” when working on projects involving agile delivery methods?
A handy checklist within the PRINCE2 Agile® best practice guidance outlines the salient points to be aware of – and these are captured under four headings:
1 Collaboration and self-organization
A project involving agile methods needs to be based on effective collaboration which involves a self-organizing team solving issues together.
A project manager should trust the team to deliver without micromanagement. PRINCE2 Agile emphasizes the need to allow people to get on with providing the right solutions demanded by the project.
And this means the project board needs to be clear on what having an “empowered” team is all about and be happy the team is planning and making changes as necessary. If essential, PRINCE2 recommends managing by exception (where a situation deviates from what the project board can accept).
2 Transparency, communication and exploration
A project manager needs to communicate the product vision clearly and the team must buy into the vision to contribute and create valuable business change.
This can involve prioritizing the ultimate product requirements based on a method such as MoSCoW (must have, should have, could have, won’t have for now) and communicating the output to stakeholders on what they will get, should get and won’t get.
This transparency with stakeholders about what the minimum viable product looks like will reassure them about getting value for their investment.
If agile is a new concept for an organization, PRINCE2 Agile includes the “Agilometer”. The aim of the Agilometer is to provide further guidance about agile that will create a level of control and predictability without becoming overly prescriptive. This includes assessing the environment and its level of acceptance of agile methods and behaviours.
And, within this environment, the project manager needs to understand and adopt the servant leadership role, which is about helping the team to remove any blockers to progressing the project. For this, stakeholder engagement is key.
If the project team is new to agile ways of working, then introduce them to Scrum – the most commonly used delivery method. In turn, be clear with stakeholders about this delivery process and the language it uses. Also, be transparent about what they’ll get or not get; for example, showing them a part of the product that’s ready but not exposing them to what’s not ready to view or demonstrate.
Following this demonstration with a team retrospective, helps everyone to recognize what went well with stakeholders and what didn’t. This creates a mindset of continual improvement in the team.
4 Planning, monitoring and control
Make contact with everyone involved in the project every day.
It’s vital to know whether a team is happy with the way they’re working in an agile environment and a project manager needs to become a facilitator in this. It generates confidence among the team that you know what you’re doing!
PRINCE2 Agile is built upon the concept of “flexing” or “prioritizing” what is delivered to create value at the earliest point. This represents a significant change in how people think and act when working on a project. The project board needs to understand this to provide effective governance to the project.
There is a rationale for working in this way:
- Be on time and hit deadlines which has many advantages
- Protect the level of quality, since this is of paramount importance
- Embrace change since it is going to happen
- Keep teams stable, do not add people to go faster
- Accept the customer doesn’t need everything – they don’t!
Ultimately, PRINCE2 Agile complements the well-established PRINCE2 method but within an agile context. The design of this best practice guidance is now proving itself to be relevant and applicable across geographies, with new translations in German, Polish and Dutch passing virtually unchanged into the local languages.
To learn more about this topic, access the recording of our webinar Agile advice for project managers which took place on Thursday 23 April 2020.