Act Now

Don’t wait for permission to use agile approaches - start making changes to how you deliver today - Jesse Fewell, CST, PMI-ACP, PMP, Contributing Editor

I recently spoke a project manager eager to learn how to improve her next project with agile approaches. Encouraged by her energy, I asked what she had read so far, to which she replied, “Oh, I know this stuff, and even got certified a couple years ago, but I’m still waiting for my first agile assignment.”

I was dumbfounded. She viewed her job as doing what she was told and only using the tools she was given. That, my friends, is a guaranteed track to mediocrity. If you want to stand out with agile, then you can’t wait for an opportunity to use it. Here are a few suggestions to get you going.

Do something differently. Don’t wait for your manager to approve the use of an agile approach. Instead, initiate a daily standup. Show them how 10 minutes of daily focused coordination can smoke out issues far in advance of a weekly status meeting.

If your leadership won’t give you the necessary resources for a successful agile team, don’t just sit around. Launch an aggressive cross-training effort with lunch-and-learn sessions and pair up team members to work on tasks. As the team gets smarter, it can share the load and avoid delays when distractions arise.

Encourage collaboration within contracts. Don’t wait for a customer to issue contracts that mention agile approaches; they don’t care. Instead, offer something like this, “If it’s okay with you, we’d like to have a critical project review every month. In exchange for the increased visibility, we’d like to get your feedback on the intermediate work items.”

Also avoid the pressure to force-fit all those new requests in the current budget and schedule. Instead, offer to collaborate to find which of the older scope items should be replaced by the new request, and how the contract might support it.

Drive attention to deliverables over documents. Don’t wait for the project management office (PMO) to stop asking for those heavyweight reports. Instead, spark a conversation about improving the plan with periodic estimates, or just submit thinner, lightweight documents and see what happens. You might be surprised by the reaction you get.

Also, stop waiting for the perfect specification; it will never come. It’s better to encourage the use of mockups, prototypes, proofs of concept and any other technique that will generate momentum on a meaningful initial product.

Adapt to change more, perform to plan less.good project manager doesn’t need an official agile approach to attack problems aggressively. Book a retrospective meeting to happen every month. It’s ideal to get lessons learned right now, so you can implement corrective action immediately and avoid past problems.

You might worry that all this is a recipe for getting fired. But really, would you get sacked over an extra conversation? Would you lose that promotion for asking basic questions? As the saying goes, “It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Your mentality matters more than your approach. Stop waiting. Start working differently.

Source: PM Network 01/2016 - JOBS OUTLOOK

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