Agile Project Management

The Agile Transition – Waterfall vs. Agile Teams

After deciding to go Agile, we change many things about our process and structure. However, many fail to understand that the people in our projects have to change as well. Whether it is adopting to new roles or accepting new people into the team, without these changes there is no chance to have a successful transition.

I have already talked about the details of going from a project manager to a scrum master. Thus this time i want to touch on the key element of any project – the team. Both traditional and Agile practices are centered around the team, however this doesn’t mean you can just assume they are going to look the same for both. Just as the methodologies preach different approaches to the process management, the teams are quite different as well.

Curious to learn how? Let’s see!

Planning

With traditional project management, the team is usually only involved in the execution of the given project. The managers and business consultants work out what needs to be done and how, asking the team only to complete the project. So there is little to no input from the team during the planning.

Contrary in Agile, planning is done throughout the process. There is no clear set plan to follow from the beginning to the end and the team is actively involved in both the planning and review of each iteration with the client. Allowing for their feedback and input into the way the project is done.

Coming from traditional project management practices, this may be daunting to some team members at first. However, they will soon realize it gives them power to stir the project into the right direction. And enables their voices and input to be heard.

Execution

Just like the planning, in traditional project management the tasks are assigned without the team. The same managerial team that planned the project decides who completes which tasks and when they need to be done. The team is simply there to produce the result when needed.

Agile teams are again quite different. Instead of being given the tasks and the times to complete them, they plan and assign tasks themselves. Agile teams are not only actively involved in the planing process, but each team member decides what tasks and when to complete. To ease this process, the task list is prioritized and limited to only a certain number of tasks. However, the final choice is always up to the team.

Just like with being involved in planning, this could seem strange during the transition. And giving so much power to the team may be hard for the managers to relinquish. But by prioritizing lists and giving the final choice to the team members, you will enable a more lenient structure and allow for the true value to be created.

Roles

When it comes to the people on your team, traditional project management relies on specific individuals completing specific tasks. Less focus is on the state of the project and the composition of the team. As long as there are people to complete the whole variety of tasks the project needs, the team is set.

Agile teams are a little bit different in this sense. They still keep all the people that are needed to complete the project at hand, but instead of focusing on having a certain number of designers, programmers, etc. they focus on a healthy mix of supporting roles. The team is seen as a unit that has to not only complete tasks, but work as a unit and help each other in case there is a need.

When transitioning from traditional into Agile project management keep in mind that you teams have to not only look good on paper, but actually work in the real world. They will have to make decisions together, as well as rely on each other. Thus it has to be a coherent group that truly meshes.

Structure

The last difference i see between the two types of teams is their structure. With traditional teams we usually have one team per project completing the whole thing or specialized teams completing certain chunks (developers, designers, etc.). This structure is easy to manage and set up and thus works for traditional clear cut project environment.

Agile views this matter a little differently. Since Agile teams are more involved in the process and need skill to collaborate with each other, their setup cannot simply be based on function. Instead, the teams in this environment are based on the things they are working on. There are usually multiple small teams in a project, each working on a small part to be completed. Each of them could be developing a different feature and only collaborating with other teams when necessary. This allows better focus on each part of the project and easier self management.

When switching, it is important to communicate that large teams worked great for traditional process, but Agile requires a different approach. Smaller, more focused teams will allow for better communication and easier progress.

 

Have you been a part of a team that went through a similar transition? Share your observations in the comments!

Leave a Reply