||This article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject. (October 2009)|
Agile project management turns the conventional 'plan perfectly, get approval and then implement' method traditional in many large and small scale projects, on its head. Its core concept is that once you understand the set of overall aims and objectives of the project, you are able to start without planning either in time or resource, all the steps of delivery. It is more of a 'start and adjust' model, than a fixed plan.
The idea is a bit like comparing the need to design a car to get to the bottom of a hill in one week. A traditional planned approach might be to organise a design team, and a management and finance team and an engineering team to consult with a design team over achieving a perfect plan to design a perfect vehicle, even before one nut is picked up. Agile management would examine the pressing need (movement) and come up with initial strategies that seem to be more likely to deliver on movement. As problems, priorities and needs arise, more aspects are added. For example if on starting movement the hill is longer than expected, perhaps more comfort is needed in the car, or alternatively, if the goal is 'to get all team members to the bottom of the hill' build time learning might indicate that walking or rolling a simple wheeled platform achieves the same goal with fewer resources than one would expect.
This style also allows for resources to be continually raised throughout the project, or for resource needs and allocations to be adjusted as markets or behaviours around the project change.
Agile management or agile project management is an iterative and incremental method of managing the design and build activities for engineering, information technology, and new product or service development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner, for example agile software development. It requires capable individuals from the relevant business, with supplier and customer input. There are also links to lean techniques, Kanban (かんばん(看板)?) and Six Sigma. Agile techniques are best used in small-scale projects or on elements of a wider program of work, or on projects that are too complex for the customer to understand and specify before testing prototypes.
Agile techniques may also be called extreme project management. It is a variant of iterative life cycle where deliverables are submitted in stages. The main difference between agile and iterative development is that agile methods complete small portions of the deliverables in each delivery cycle (iteration) while iterative methods evolve the entire set of deliverables over time, completing them near the end of the project. Both iterative and Agile methods were developed as a reaction to various obstacles that developed in more sequential forms of project organization. For example, as technology projects grow in complexity, end users tend to have difficulty defining the long term requirements without being able to view progressive prototypes. Projects that develop in iterations can constantly gather feedback to help refine those requirements. According to Jean-Loup Richet (Research Fellow at ESSEC Institute for Strategic Innovation & Services) "this approach can be leveraged effectively for non-software products and for project management in general, especially in areas of innovation and uncertainty. The end result is a product or project that best meets current customer needs and is delivered with minimal costs, waste, and time, enabling companies to achieve bottom line gains earlier than via traditional approaches.
The Agile Project Leadership Network provides a community of practice for those using Agile methods, with international conferences and online forums. Their "Declaration of Interdependence" extends the Agile Manifesto further into the value stream and emphasises the collaborative, whole-business nature of this work.
Agile Methods are mentioned in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) under the Project Lifecycle definition:
Adaptive project life cycle, a project life cycle, also known as change-driven or agile methods, that is intended to facilitate change and require a high degree of ongoing stakeholder involvement. Adaptive life cycles are also iterative and incremental, but differ in that iterations are very rapid (usually 2-4 weeks in length) and are fixed in time and resources.
- ExecutiveBrief, Which Life Cycle Is Best For Your Project?, PM Hut. Accessed 23. Oct 2009.
- Richet, Jean-Loup (2013). Agile Innovation. Cases and Applied Research, n°31. ESSEC-ISIS. ISBN 978-2-36456-091-8
- Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN)
- Agile Project Leadership Network's Declaration of Interdependence
- Agile Manifesto
- Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Fifth Edition