5 Key Principles of Agile Project Management

Agile project management is an innovative approach to new product development. Compared to traditional, product- or outcome-based project governance, agile project management provides an entirely different operation environment. Though there are dozens of different agile methods, with one of the more commonly practiced agile methodology called Scrum, the project team divides goals into segments (also called scrums), which the team further sections into sprints or the tasks required to complete each scrum. The method requires participants to have intimate experience with the intended resulting product. Within project parameters, the participants operate diplomatically, and the objectives can change drastically based on findings discovered during the project execution. These findings result from the repetitive development and testing process that is distinctive to agile project management.

Agile in Action

The agile process is a flexible technique where participants repetitively plan, develop and revise a good or service until they achieve the desired results. During this process, the team releases test products or services – called iterations – and revises their planning based on each outcome. The repetitive testing and revision process results in an outcome different from the originally anticipated conclusion; however, the project often results in a worthwhile and well-functioning offering. This technique is invaluable for fast-paced industries, extremely complex projects or urgent initiatives.

Agile practitioners most frequently deploy scrums to manage the project objectives. The scrum team outlines desired outcomes, called sprints, which are the resulting product versions. The team then plans the requirements to complete each sprint and conducts daily meetings to monitor and maintain progress. Each sprint runs consecutively – without pause – and concludes with potentially marketable products.

Principle 1: Experience Makes the Difference

With the Scrum agile approach, an individual called the product owner who has  direct end-user experience must participate in the mission and actively engage with the project team. This individual is typically responsible for the resulting product quality and utility. Ideally, the team members also have experience with the desired product. Agile governance also incorporates real-time transparency throughout the project lifespan, rather than scheduled reporting to interested parties as with traditional project management techniques.

Principle 2: Self-direction Creates Flexibility

Agile approaches, especially when in coordination with traditional project management, allow participants to produce results with autonomy but within designated guidelines. Once the team assembles, outside influences do not intervene; all directives and regulations originate from staff members. The participants decide the requirements and important outcomes using a diplomatic approach to make decisions.

Principle 3: Changes Are Part of the Plan

Although agile projects’ goals change during the project lifespan, the developers restrict these changes to specific time frames. This helps the developers to restrain costs, delivery time and latitude. There is, however, built-in budget flexibility, which changes with the outlined requirements. At the project onset, the team decides what changes should take priority over others and warrant substantial consideration.

Principle 4: Fast, Repetitive Deliverables

Agile approaches incorporate a cyclical, as opposed to linear, framework. The cycles encompass analysis, development and testing with the experienced users. With each cycle, the participants produce a functioning good or service. This results in a clearer understanding of potential outcomes and higher success probabilities. As an added bonus, the method increases the likelihood of the team producing beneficial deliverables.

Principle 5: Frequent Testing and Modification

Early testing and frequent repetition are signature differences in agile approaches. This is in contrast to traditional project management, where the team members develop deliverables and test them upon completion as validation of an advantageous outcome. The frequent testing with agile reduces imperfections and the possibility of faulty assumptions skewing the outcomes during the project’s life cycle, while helping participants adjust to changes faster.

Agile approaches help fast-paced organizations produce goods and services quickly. Agile teams share leadership responsibility and by eliminating outside intervention can produce new concepts quickly. This framework allows developers to discover and react to changes while keeping a project moving forward. By requiring team members to have significant experience with the intended product, agile methods increase the possibility of the production of a valuable commodity. An agile project may result in an unanticipated outcome, however, it is more likely to produce a new concept will help an organization succeed.

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Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is an internationally recognized research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis University is pleased to offer its M.S. in Project and Program Management (MSPPM) in a convenient online format for working professionals interested in project management.





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