Agile for Traditional Projects

Agile for Traditional Projects

Agile for Traditional Projects

By Susan Parente | Risk Management Guru – Agile Generalist – Instructor and Consultant, IIL

“Can Agile practices be incorporated with traditional project management?” This is a very common question today, and the answer is yes!

In this blog, I’ll cover two great Agile practices that teams have found to be valuable to incorporate on traditional projects, and which may help your team make the shift from traditional to Agile project management: A Daily Stand-up meeting and a Kanban board.

The daily stand-up meeting

The daily stand-up is used in Scrum, one of the most popular frameworks for implementing Agile. In this meeting, the project team members answer the following three questions:

  1. “What have I completed since yesterday that supports the iteration goal?”
  2. “What do I plan to complete today to support the iteration goal?”
  3. And lastly, “What are the barriers or impediments that are getting in my way in completing the work I have to do to support the iteration goal?”

This truly is a stand-up meeting, where all participants are standing. The meeting is time-boxed which means that it must end at the allocated time, generally 15 minutes. This forces people to prioritize what they talk about and to make sure they are efficient with the use of meeting time. (If you decide to have a daily stand-up meeting and let it run over 15 minutes, you’re not actually doing the practice of a daily stand-up, as it is a time-boxed event).

What you will likely find is in the first few daily stand-up meetings, not everyone will have an opportunity to speak; however, after a few meetings, people will figure out how to be succinct so that everyone has an opportunity to speak. It’s important for the Project Manager (PM), team lead, or facilitator in a traditional project to allow the team to work through this, as it is a part of the process of team development.

It is also important for the PM to take the lead and provide meeting support, but only to remind team members to focus on the three questions they need to answer (as noted above) and remind them if they’re getting off-topic with doing so.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the daily stand-up meeting is for the team to provide status to all team members, not to report to the project manager or the customer. Of course, it is valuable for the project manager to attend this meeting as the team facilitator; however, their role is more focused on listening and enforcing process than leading the team.

The Kanban board

A project Kanban board, or task board, is used by agile team members to work through project tasks. The project sponsor need not know that you are using an Agile method, and neither do your team members. In some organizations, it can be worrisome to customers and team members to use ‘Agile’ if they don’t know much about it. It can be an intimidating change. Using the Kanban board has been very effective for teams that I have coached or led because the teams had multiple tasks that changed every week. It is an easier way to manage these tasks and to make sure they get completed in a prioritized order while being able to track who is working on which tasks.

As designed, a Kanban board minimizes the project work-in-process and allows the team to complete all of the project work, not knowing necessarily how long each task would take. As each task is completed, the team member who completed it updates the board and assigns themselves to the next prioritized task.

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Other Agile practices that teams have found to be valuable to incorporate for traditional projects include:

  • Information radiators
  • War rooms (collocation of the team)
  • Team retrospectives
  • Burndown charts
  • Relative sizing/estimating
  • And others

What is nice about incorporating Agile practices while doing traditional project management is that you may receive some benefit from using these practices while your organization may not be ready for an Agile project management approach. As a PM, you probably have some authority as to how your development team works and are able to use some of these tools even without agreement from senior management, or from your customer.

By incorporating Agile practices into traditional project management, you can reap the benefits of these practices and also, in the meantime, educate your team and your customer on Agile practices so they are more comfortable with using them. 

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Susan Parente (PMP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, CSM, CSPO, CISSP, CRISC, RESILIA, ITIL, MS Eng. Mgmt.) is an instructor and consultant at IIL, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Virginia, Post University (CT), and Montclair State University (NJ). She is an author, mentor and teacher focused on risk management, traditional and Agile project management. Her experience is augmented by her Masters in Engineering Management with a focus in Marketing of Technology, from George Washington University (DC), along with a number of professional certifications. Ms. Parente has 18+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD.

Comments (3)

  • Eric Naiburg

    Scrum calls it a Daily Scrum, not a Daily Standup for several reasons.

    1. Not everyone in the team may be able to stand, I have been on those teams and it quickly becomes insulting.
    2. It is about working together as a team to assess any changes that need to occur things that need to happen and things in the way. Calling it a stand up often leads to just a status meeting, not a how do we go forward meeting as intended in the Scrum Guide as written by the creators of Scrum. https://www.scrumguides.org .

    You write: “Keep in mind that the purpose of the daily stand-up meeting is for the team to provide status to all team members,” This is not correct. Status can easily come through transparency of the Product and Sprint Backlog and Kanban Board as you talk about in your article. The Daily Scrum is about moving forward toward the Sprint Goal. It also isn’t about the 3 questions, those are just examples, as stated in the Scrum Guide, “The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours. This optimizes team collaboration and performance by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting upcoming Sprint work. The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity. “

  • J Coley

    Hello Ms. Parente, just a note to ask if you have authored publications, white papers, and/or books on the topic of Managing Agile and Waterfall Projects, and/or other topics related to Project Management in the Agile environment. If so, may I have the titles and locations where I can purchase them.
    Thank you.

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