How flexibility can be the fast path to your goals.
When you’re agile, you think and act quickly. From a position of swiftness and adaptivity, a project manager (PM) can respond to obstacles and delays like water around a stone (agile project management is also known as the Zen approach for a reason).
How does a PM put agile project principles into play? Surely, they already do. Solving problems as they arise is par for the course. The fact is that traditional solutions may not serve you as well as the agile project management process. When you embrace the agile methodology, you can benefit from some highly flexible and productive approaches.
A summary of agile project management
In this blog, we’ll look at two facets of the agile methodology: the iterative and the parallel. Each offers its own way of increasing project flexibility, streamlining efficiency and promoting the self-sufficiency of individual team members.
In both the iterative and the parallel, the agile approach requires splitting the project up in various ways. The iterative method sees the whole project treated like a series of shorter development cycles (sometimes called “sprints”). The parallel method distributes various tasks among the whole team simultaneously.
When either of these two approaches is successfully implemented, getting your project to its destination can be fluid, faster, and free from problems.
The iterative process in agile project management
No matter where or how you work, racing the clock can mean serious stress. The iterative process takes the traditionally counterproductive time window and turns it on its head. Iteration sees the overall project broken down into smaller, incremental steps. These micro-tasks have correspondingly smaller completion schedules. With the iterative approach, closer deadlines can actually reap greater results.
There are pros and cons to this side of agile methodology. One benefit is an enhanced, dynamic awareness of your project’s current stage of development. With planning cycles occurring on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, managers and staff are kept in more frequent contact, with increased measurability as a result. Not only will this highlight any negative issues more effectively, but problems can also be course-corrected on an iterative scale far more easily than a larger one.
It’s an extremely agile and flexible take on project management. A manager can decide just how long-time windows should be, extending or reducing completion times as the project evolves. There’s the further benefit of boosted morale: the completion of each mini-milestone offers positive and productive feelings of accomplishment en route to the overall goal.
The cons of an iterative approach
The potential pitfalls of iteration are the flip side of its greatest advantages. Where micro-management can provide greater measurability and increased awareness of issues, it can also slow projects to a crawl. Getting too caught up in an abundance of smaller goals can create its own kind of chaos and becoming overly-focused on incremental tasks can sometimes lead to losing sight of the goal.
Additionally, where iteration may relieve overall stress through a series of smaller victories, having one new deadline after another may lead some PMs and staff to burn out. As with any approach, the success of agile project management depends on leaders knowing themselves and their team.
Parallel tasks in agile project management
Assigning parallel tasks, when it works, can really streamline a project. Rather than each step toward the goal being taken in sequence, every part of the project’s life cycle happens at the same time. Each part of the team has their assigned chunk of the project, and they carry it out separately from others.
The big benefit here is speed. The other is agility. For example, if a PM is tackling one task at a time and there’s a stall in its progress, then everything is on hold until the issue is resolved. With parallel tasks, attention can be switched to the other project elements that are still going strong until the first issue is resolved. When this approach is going well, a PM’s ability to leap between moving tasks defines the agile methodology.
Parallel working is also music to the ears of senior management, beneficiaries, and stakeholders. They’ll know that every part of the project is underway.
The risks of parallel tasks
Like any machine, the more moving parts you have, the greater the risk of a breakdown. The assignment of separate tasks can see four out of five team members complete their part, yet overall progress will suffer because of a single incomplete task.
There’s also the paradox of everything and nothing being a priority with parallel tasks. When a whole team is working on a single job, everyone knows where they are. When tasks run in parallel, a project is effectively everywhere at once.
The success of one branch is dependent on the others, and this can mean a significant increase in PM vigilance and responsibility, as they’re often the only one entirely in the loop.
Can agile methodology be applied to all projects and industries?
Arguably, yes. Even though the general agile approach is an offshoot of the software industry, the very nature of success is always a gradual and positive progression to a final goal. The iterative approach seems tailor-made to be a winner regardless of industry or desired outcome. This is where questions must be asked, however.
To whom does the PM report? Do share/stakeholders, the Board, or the public require regular updates on project progress? If such parties are looking for periodic involvement, the iterative approach will provide the feedback and inclusion they’re looking for. If they’re not looking for such regularity, choosing the iterative route may not be worth the possible stress.
Projects with a tight completion schedule exist in every sphere of business. When they arise, parallel tasks could be right for everyone’s needs.
When all things are considered, both sides of this agile methodology can mean a major upturn in project success. Resources can be alternately focused or widely distributed. Feedback and collaboration can be optimized. Framework adaptability becomes many times more flexible while isolating and addressing problems also improves.
These approaches to agile project management are presented for your consideration. With the right people and a steady approach, they can be a fast track to success.
Beachwood Custom has been immersed in the hospitality industry since 1992 with a range of experience including design, purchasing, manufacturing, and installation – the art of opening a hotel. If you’d like to get in touch with us, we’d be happy to hear from you.