There are certain words in the business world that just sound so wonderful that they must represent a good thing. Agility is one of these words. According to an article by Bruce McGraw of PM Hut, that word creates images of ease, quickness, and even gymnasts tumbling about. When it comes to software development, agility means addressing rapid change in a successful manner. It tends to deal with short timespans and quick deliverables. It allows for smooth improvements to be made from one cycle to the next, but there is really more to the word than that. McGraw notes that agile projects and project managers must focus on four specific areas:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
What is the best way for project managers to promote agility? McGraw suggests there are multiple answers to that question. In fact, McGraw offers 15 tips for being more successful in this respect. His first tip is to, if possible, get your team members to work in close proximity to one another. It is also helpful to choose people who enjoy working collaboratively when forming your team. Granted, this is not always an option, but when it is, it makes everything much easier. It allows people to communicate on a more informal basis, which is more desirable than emails and reports. Having meetings on a rather frequent basis is another thing to strive for. In addition to focusing on your team, make sure individual members get enough attention. This is a wonderful way to see how competent any individual is. Tools can and should be used to support any and all interaction. There should also be a focus at the management level. Team members are going to look to their project managers when deciding what actions to take. If management cares, they will have better luck on motivating the team to achieve desired results: Create empathetic management—people respond more positively and recover from all kinds of trauma when they encounter empathy. Changing methodology from traditional development process to agile development is a big change to a project or an organization—it can be traumatic. In addition to leading people through this resilience, management must also be empathetic to the impact of the change. Leverage human complexity—support learning about the people on your team—not just their technical prowess, but also their interests, personality types/characteristics. As you can see, having agility means much more than being able to complete tasks in a timely manner. It requires management involvement as well as team member willingness. Furthermore, being agile is not just about how you do something but when. Agility is the responsibility of everyone, but the management must make sure this is possible. Saying you have agility and actually being agile are two completely different things. Don’t be fooled by how pretty the word sounds. Follow McGraw’s tips toward agility and you will surely see the benefit of doing so throughout your team and business as a whole.