We’re Agile, Now What?
You’re a PM working with a team that has just gone agile. Here are a few tips to help you be successful managing agile projects:
Understand agile team dynamics
Agile is about creating an environment where team members are fully engaged and empowered to make decisions. A good agile team is transparent and apolitical. It is a fun and safe place to work. A big part of your job as an agile project manager is to create this environment for your project team. The more you can understand about what makes agile teams work, the better positioned you will be to help them be successful.
Champion the project vision
Sometimes the team is going to get in the weeds. Your job is to help them stay focused on the big picture. Own the project vision. Keep it front and center during planning meetings. Use the vision to make sure the team stays on course. Keeping everyone focused on the goals of the organization is a huge contribution to your team and the business.
Listen to your team. Understand what they are telling you. Become an enabler by helping the team deal with the problems that are slowing them down. Be proactive and help anticipate risks. Deal with issues before they become impediments. Create a network of informed company leaders that can help resolve issues when they get too big for the team to deal with locally.
Focus on team building
Create opportunities for the team to have a shared experience. Create an environment where people can develop strong relationships at work. Help develop a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie. Great teams work together and like each other. Great teams are sensitive to each other’s needs. Don’t let this happen by accident, be intentional about it.
Build consensus through facilitation
You have created a high performance team focused on the business vision. Get out of the way an let them deliver. At this point you become a facilitator for the team. Learn techniques that help people come to consensus and resolve conflict in a healthy way. Recognize ways to help ensure everyone on the team is able to contribute. Help the team find common ground and get moving.
Develop talent through coaching
Become a teacher. Help set expectations for the team. Most importantly, put people in position to be successful and give them the tools to deliver. One of the best ways to do this is to develop your coaching skills. Learn positive ways to give feedback. Create non confrontational ways to guide and instruct. Build relationships and be open to feedback in return.
Encourage structure and discipline
Maintaining structure and discipline requires energy. One of your primary responsibilities is to help the team maintain focus and protect the process. Encourage participation in planning meetings, daily stand-ups, and retrospectives. Help your product owners find time to maintain the backlog. Encourage discipline around agile engineering practices. Help the team understand how all the practices work together.
Help the team commit
Agile is about delivering on time… every time. On time delivery requires commitment. It requires the commitment of the team to deliver the sprint and the commitment of the product owners to adjust as we learn more about the evolving solution. As an agile project manager you can help create a sense of shared ownership and a culture of collaboration and cooperation amongst all the team members.
Get help when you need it
Having a good support system is essential . Find people on the same road to share the journey with you. Seek out people that have travelled the road before you. Join user groups and share your ideas. Join organizations and find ways to contribute. You will learn much along the way. Never hesitate to ask for advice.
Be patient and stay the course
You are going to have challenges and you are going to make mistakes. There is a learning curve and some old habits will die hard. Hold yourself accountable and learn from your mistakes. Most importantly, don’t give up.
Being an agile project manager is about being a great leader. It is about accepting input from reality and responding to it. It is about looking out for the best interest of the team. Seeking out what is not being said. Helping to bridge gaps in understanding. Exposing what is hidden.
There is no success for anyone unless we are all successful. By working for the success of the team, you are working for your own success. You cannot have one without the other.