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Agile Methodology: A Creative Approach to Project Management

By Ron Montgomery (1276 words)
Posted in Project & Process Management on January 20, 2013

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By Ron Montgomery, Management Consultant & Owner, OnPoint, LLC

Agile Methodology was born as a lightweight framework for managing software development.  It emphasizes business-driven prioritization, responding to change, self-organizing teams, face-to-face communications and quick delivery cycles.  It de-emphasizes sequential processes and detailed project artifacts such as specification documents.  Since it’s inception the benefits of the concept have been spread to other areas of business.  Today you will often hear the word agile in association with:

  • Extreme Programming (XP) – System engineering practices
  • Scrum – Project management practices
  • Lean – Management practices adapted from lean manufacturing


The agile movement has been in progress for many years and reached a pivotal point in February 2001 when a group of software development experts met in Utah to ski, socialize, and discuss how to improve software development.  The result was the “Agile Manifesto and Principles", which are listed below and also posted at www.agilemanifesto.org.


Agile Values


“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.  Through this work we have come to value:


Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan


That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.


Agile Principles:

  • Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.


Agile is a significant departure from the classical “waterfall” management approach as summarized below:



“Plan the work and work the plan”

Plan, work and repeat

Plan for activities & tasks

Plan for functionality

Learn and document everything at the outset of the project

Respond to new information during the project

Resist changes to scope

Welcome changes in scope

All scope items must be delivered

Functionality will be re-prioritized frequently by the business, and some functionality may never be developed

Projects are organized like relay races, with scheduled handoffs between groups

Projects are similar to scrums in rugby, as all team members work to move the ball down the field

QA is performed at the end of the project

QA is performed continuously


Why Agile?

For decades, the traditional waterfall method has led to frustration over long development cycles, high costs, inflexibility, and missed requirements.  The reason for this frustration is simple:  the traditional waterfall method was based on the flawed premise that software development is predictable and can be planned thoroughly up front.  The reality is that software is abstract and based on changing business needs that cannot be fully anticipated. 


The agile framework can increase software development productivity, accelerate time to market, improve software quality, and reduce risks.  Given the pervasive nature of software in our business and personal lives, it is easy to understand why the agile movement has grown from a small group of software developers to broad-scale, mainstream adoption. 


As new software engineers enter the workforce, they will want to work as part of empowered agile teams rather than an “old school” waterfall environment.  In a few years agile, or some adaptation of it, will be no longer be a trend.  It will simply be the way software development is managed.


Agile is a Framework, Not a Guarantee of Success

Agile projects can fail and when they do, it is often the result of company culture that is oriented toward command and control versus empowerment.  In addition to cultural problems, organizations that have attempted to “scale” agile practices at the enterprise level, have encountered problems with a lack of alignment at the investment, program and team levels.  In recent months, a framework has been published for implementing agile at scale.  The framework emerged from several years of large-scale agile implementations and can be viewed at www.scaledagileframework.com.


Taking it From Here – Professional Development

If you are a project manager involved with software development and delivery, you should take control of your own professional development and focus on agile.  Seek out opportunities to attend training courses and begin to invest in your own library of books on the subject.  There is no shortage of great books on agile.  Here are a few titles that I found helpful in my transition from traditional project management to agile:


The transition to agile is aptly described as a journey rather than a destination.  I encourage you to begin the journey today.


{#/pub/images/RonMontgomery1.jpg}Written by Ron Montgomery, Management Consultant & Owner, OnPoint, LLC Ron is certified as a Project Management Professional, Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified ScrumMaster with over 35 years of hands-on experience in business planning, software development, process improvement & deployment of software solutions.  By partnering with clients to drive business value from technology projects, Ron assists clients with business planning, IT strategy, project and program management, vendor selection and team training/mentoring.



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Here are some related articles you may be interested in: 

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Learn How Action Oriented Team Management Can Drive Timely Results.

Communication: Fundamental to Project Success

Four SMART Principles of Project Management


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Comments (2)

isameldin mudawi posted on: January 21, 2013

I think it is better to contrast waterfall pattern to standardize management performance as what you stated ,not be seen as an interpretation of the former one.let's see the following , the manager should have a talent of broad mind - obtaining vision- ,enough knowledge to lead the process (technical, administrative and decision making),moderate leading character , ability of molding and adaptation to follow technical and administrative changes ,development and intention to creativity and innovation .

pmp course posted on: July 24, 2013

Wow! I never thought that I can found this information. I am really thankful that I came across this website.

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