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FAQ: Is Agile Appropriate

Page history last edited by Olivier Gourment 14 years, 8 months ago

Are Agile project management techniques appropriate for my project?

Agile project management techniques can be applied to many types of projects.  Scrum has been applied on a variety of different kinds of projects - research, hardware infrastructure, process improvement, software development, it has even been used in the executive management of companies (e.g. Salesforce.com).  Agile techniques have been applied across a wide variety of products including pacemakers (e.g., Medtronics) and commercial aircraft (e.g.,  Boeing, and Honeywell).  While the data is still tentative, a lot of companies successfully adopting Agile are reporting significant improvements in time to market, productivity, quality and customer and employee satisfaction.   Whether Agile techniques are appropriate for your project depends on the value project managers expect to get from Agile techniques and the risk and cost of shifting to Agile techniques.


What value to expect from Agile? 

Agile project management focuses on delivering the maximum value to the organization.  Agile project management facilitate:

  • Building the highest value features/requirements
  • Adopting to changing market/customer requirements
  • Demonstrating working product early
  • Addressing all risks early in development
  • Delivering new functionality quickly and frequently


Organizations, project teams and project managers that value or require these characteristics in projects, will find agile suitable or even necessary to be successfull


Are you ready?

In terms of risk and cost, agile requires both a change in processes and a change in mindset.  The extent that the project team and the organization are either ready for or resistant to these changes can significantly impact the cost and risk of adopting agile techniques.  The change process can best be understood in three classic change management questions:

  • Is the team/organization unhappy with the current process
  • Are they convinced of the benefits of shift to agile
  • Do they understand and accept the process of changing to agile


If the answers to these questions are yes  - or the team is already following an Agile process -  then there is relatively little effort or risk to change processes.  To the extent that the team is unready or unwilling to change, the project manager faces a project within a project to change processes.  This can be magnified by the organization's view of change - to what extent does the organization embrace experimentation and or change.   Successful individuals and organizations, became successfull following the processes they are currently using.


Agile is more than just changing from process A to process B.  Agile takes on the midset of a learning organization.  One core principle of agile is inspect and adapt.  The team examines their process and results on a regular basis - every 1-4 week iteration.  The team needs to be empowered to identify and understand its opportunities for improvement (and deficiencies) and it needs to be able to change it process to address the opportunities and deficiencies.  As a project manager, Agile requires a shift for command and control to servant leadership, form telling a project team what to do to facilitating a teams definition of what they are going to do.  Some individuals, teams and organization will embrace (require) this new mindset, while other will find it challenging or even threatening.


As a project manager, you need to weight the potential value of agile principles and practices, with the risk and cost of adoption.  This can also require a broader perspective of the value of agile, not just for one project, but over many projects and or the organization as a whole.

Comments (2)

Marcos Antonio Ferreira Domingues said

at 4:50 pm on Sep 16, 2009

The most important element: the team. If the people are involved and accept the change to agile and understand the benefits after change, it’s easy.

Pat Guariglia said

at 2:27 pm on Jun 22, 2010

The organization's mindset, or culture, needs to be accepting and supportive of the agile process. Without having key functional managers and high-level project champions on board with the agile process, it will be difficult to be completely successful. Agile PMs may spend a lot of time making the process work within an organization that is aligned in a more traditional sense. Once some functional managers and champions can be won over, the project will move easier with less impediments.

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