Rick and I believe an agile approach to project management works better than the Waterfall approach in a fast-paced, dynamic, and ambiguous change environment. But, our projects typically aren’t clearly one type or the other; they are a blend of both. We are becoming adept at working with this kind of hybrid project. In our last blog, we listed five tips we think are helpful for working on these Dynamic Change projects.

Let’s get started with…

Tip 1: Assess the situation

It makes sense to take a step back (even if we think we don’t have the time to do it) to assess and align on what type of project you are about to embark on. But don’t do it by yourself. Sit down with the business sponsor, project manager, team, and stakeholders to check out the characteristics of the project (see diagram below). Agree on the knowns and unknowns, value, outcome, and best approach for managing the project.

If your project doesn’t fit in either Waterfall or Agile methodologies, don’t force fit it. Use the Dynamic Change approach and get the best from both.

On our recent projects, Rick and I have met with the project manager and sponsor to raise awareness about the differences in approach and what it means to adopt Agile practices. You may want to weave in some discussion of how teams behave differently in each case. (Below are some ideas to help you facilitate the conversation.)

1

Provide an overview of “what does it mean to work in an Agile project.”
(Examples: the project is centered on the software development process which includes Agile scrum training and a defined, structured process). During the conversation, people usually realize that using an Agile methodology may not be that simple or may not be the right approach.

2

Run through some of the Agile practices and make a list of what to borrow and how to adopt it for your project. It may be something as fundamental as the importance of a learn-and-adapt approach and how to recreate it for our project. At first, learn-and-adapt will probably feel uncomfortable and will likely make it difficult to predict timing or schedules.

3

Help people acknowledge that picking an Agile or Dynamic Change approach will bring some risk as the organization will need to learn how to adopt a new mindset and deal with some level of uncertainty. Acknowledging this will open the lines of communication about dealing with the ambiguity – one of the principles of Agile and a fundamental success factor for an effective team.

Tip: If your organization has been building Agile capability, engage with some of those experts to help with the adaptation to get the benefits for your project.

“The first time I tried this, I saw the power of facilitating this kind of conversation. I could sense the level of rapport building between the sponsor, project manager and me.”

The first time I tried this, I saw the power of facilitating this kind of conversation. I could sense the level of rapport building between the sponsor, project manager and me. We quickly aligned on our project as a blend of Waterfall and Agile and came up with a good strategy to attack it. We also discussed the success factors for the team and what norms would be important. This prevented a lot of confusion later in the project.

What We Learned

After several of these assessment-type meetings with people from the sponsor to individual team members, Rick and I realized that most people have an implicit desire to operate in an agile way. (It’s fast-moving, divided into bite-sized chunks of work, and easy to change direction or focus.) Having the discussions (and explicitly explaining the method and what to expect) helps the whole team learn and adapt to the challenges they will likely experience… In the next blog, we will dive deeper into Tip 2: Create a culture – Develop and maintain an effective cross-functional team that embraces a learn-and-adapt mindset to help members maneuver through dynamic change.

Change moves on whether we plan for it or not. Contact us and we can help you and your organization understand and succeed in a dynamic and changing environment.