Agile project management focuses on delivering project outcomes repeatedly and incrementally. It is a less rigid and regimented process than traditional project management, giving the project team more autonomy and flexibility.
Without the rigid framework of a traditional project management approach, agile teams need great tools in place. They need to communicate, collaborate and respond to each other’s needs. Agile environments rely on team members being motivated and well informed, and agile project managers need to trust in their team and exhibit behaviours of flexibility, collaboration and empowerment. So what makes a project manager effective in an agile environment?
Some people assume that agile management means as little project management as possible. In fact, in an agile environment, change happens fast, and the act of managing and accommodating that change requires the project manager to be attentive, disciplined and actively managing at all times. Agile PMs may be handing a lot of autonomy to their team members, but that does not mean they take a ‘hands off’ approach. On the contrary, they need to pay a lot of attention to what is going on within the team and coordinate it all.
Know your people
Great agile project managers get to know their team. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member helps in any project management situation, but in an agile environment where things change at short notice, knowing who has which skills and attributes is vital. Agile teams are generally more collaborative with responsive team members much readier to step up and take on ‘other duties as required’ than in a traditional project management setting.
Knowing who in your team needs extra support and coaching is also vital. Agile team members need to be motivated, self-disciplined and proactive. It is worth developing these attributes in team members who are missing them, as this will help an agile team work better. Lastly, great PMs in an agile environment will make sure team members know each other well. Good team building and facilitating a rapport between team members means that they also know the capabilities and special skills of their colleagues.
Use collective wisdom
Having a more collaborative team is only useful if everyone can contribute their best. Agile teams will be expected to make joint decisions, and to do that, it is necessary to have a process in place to share collective wisdom. A successful agile project manager will find a way to bring people together, encourage feedback and ideas and somehow aggregate diverse opinions to reach the best decision possible.
Agile project managers must find a way to benefit from wide-ranging feedback without getting too hung up on the need for consensus. It is the job of the agile PM to aggregate all the information and make a decision based on the collective wisdom of the team.
Project management may be different in an agile environment. It is, however, every bit as important as in a traditional setting.