Leadership in Agile Project Management
Working in a leadership role in an Agile environment is a challenging task. Read on to get some tips on how to better lead Agile/Scrum teams.
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Agile Project Management is revered as one of the prominent methodologies introduced to practice modern day Project Management. It is also one of the recent and value-driven project management strategies has been widely applied to software development practices to deliver high priority and high-quality work. Therefore, it is best suited to relate software development processes to Agile project management methodologies for better understanding and enhanced leadership.
With the advancement in software development, requirements and technologies, traditional models like the Waterfall model are not robust enough to cater to the ever changing demands of clients. In order to address the agility of the requirements, the need was recognized to build a more flexible and robust alternative. As a result, Agile software development models were developed. Since the Agile development models are different from the traditional models, Agile project management is a specialized area in project management.
Leadership in Agile Project Management
In the traditional Waterfall model, the Project Manager is burdened with improvising and adapting the requirements of change and maintaining the project quality, scope, reporting, risks, etc. Whereas in Agile project management, these roles are divided among the entire team and it is not just the manager’s responsibility.
It is divided into following Agile leadership roles:
The Product Manager: Sets project goals, adapts to the changing requirements, balances the scope versus schedule, acts on and sets the priorities for product features.
The Scrum Master or Iteration Manager: Guides the team and removes the obstructions by prioritizing and monitoring their tasks.
Team Members: Handle the assigned tasks, development, process reporting, and the product quality control.
It is very evident that the entire team is responsible for managing the affairs and unlike the Waterfall model, it is not just the project manager’s responsibility. The right person at the right place and division of labor ensures that things can progress at a faster rate and there is no time lapse in decision making.
With that said, many of you might be wondering who is supervising the Agile development projects.
The simple answer to this question is ‘not an individual but the entire team.’ The principles of the Agile Manifesto call for self-motivated and directed professionals to work on the projects as self-organizing teams. Team members handle the specified tasks as per their capabilities and project requirements, and the entire team is collectively responsible for the successful completion of the project. The Agile Manifesto believes in spreading the management tasks across the team, so as to empower all team members and spur productivity and innovation.
If you are responsible for the team working to attain a common objective, then I believe you are a Supervisor or Leader. In this blog, I’ll be discussing the ways to enhance the leadership capabilities of certain roles, especially for Project Managers and Scrum Masters.
Here are a couple of recommendations:
Maintain Focus and Perform Your Duties
Some people believe that Agile environment offers as little the Project Management as possible. With all due respect, I completely disagree with this statement. The Agile process is very fast paced and disciplined. To accommodate change and to stay on track, the Agile approach demands constant attention to the team, processes, and results. Easy to understand and implement Agile methodologies suggests a number of practices that assist us with the basics of software development and project management in the Agile model. But what’s essential and equally important is to alter the leadership style to reap the maximum number of benefits while adopting the Agile methodologies.
Some novice Project Managers follow the ‘hands off’ approach, and because of this their team struggles through the initial maturity phases, and Agile appears to fail. It is essential for the success of the project that the team members find ways to interact, have good debates, and solve problems together. An ideal leader will encourage and facilitate these processes throughout the various project steps.
As a Project Manager or Iteration Master, you should:
Plan and improvise the activities.
Conduct informal social events.
Conduct team building activities.
Conduct Retrospective sessions.
Understand Your Team Members
Understand your team and identify the outliers, if any. During Scrum sessions, if you find missing characteristics of hard work and self -discipline in an individual, then you should do whatever it takes to counsel those professionals as much as you can.
Self-discipline can be measured by following characteristics:
Engaging in debates and interactions.
Willingness to work.
Make team members trust each other. How do you do that? You must trust them first!
To operate effectively with your team members, you must facilitate knowledge sharing with the entire team. As a leader, you should be open to learning so as to build an amiable working environment and strong professional relationships.
Learn to Use Collective Wisdom
In an Agile project management, there are many questions that are to be answered and decisions to be made. Prioritizing the functionality, estimates of work, work allotment, requirements, etc. How do you decide on these factors? Are you making the decisions unilaterally? You are not supposed to do that and should learn to utilize the ‘Collective Wisdom’ effectively. It is expected that under the ideal conditions, a group will collectively make a better decision than one specialist.
Ideal conditions for using Collective Wisdom effectively include:
The diversity of opinions.
The accumulation of opinions.
In the end, there are many challenges that lie ahead for the Agile project leader. These leaders have to follow and innovate different leadership approaches on the Agile projects than they would on Waterfall or any traditional style projects. What leadership approach do you follow while managing an Agile project?
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