Project Management in the Digital Age: Adapting to the Agile World
I just perused through LinkedIn and couldn’t believe it when I saw 15,000+ groups in a result set from a search query of: “Project Management”. Seriously, 15,000 in a result set is absurd if you are looking for info on best practices for a PMO.
With the popularity of this topic, what can I say here that hasn’t already been said in the countless books, blogs, and groups? To answer that question, I needed to dig back into my 30+ years of professional experience and 20+ years of team sport participation and coaching. The one thing I do know is that PMP for many companies is really an older, inflated approach that may work for massive projects, but is a bit too much for general product and software systems projects. Sorry for those that are specialized in this methodology, but we just don’t see it much in today’s world. PMP is good for initial project planning, but a bit cumbersome now for most technology projects. The concepts work for Project Management, but for successful technical project leadership and success you need to:
- Enforce An Agile Approach
The Agile approach has revolutionized product development, hence the omnipresent approach to Agile SW development. Agile (in its many forms) allows for changes, pivots with adaptable prioritization which meets the needs of the business in the most optimal manner.
- Maintain Task Discipline
Your project is as late as the next deliverable. If you do not checkpoint frequently, you may very well suffer a slip equal to the time between your last checkpoint (completed task) and the defined goal. This is why Agile SW development implements daily scrums. Even if you meet for 10 minutes, it can save days and weeks of rework.
- Adopt Systems That Track Things
There is a plethora of systems out there from Jira to ADO to BaseCamp, Teams to Slack – and many in between. These systems are essential to track tasks, risks, issues, documents, test cases, and the like.
- Refrain From Using Email Much
While email may have its place in project communication, it is an inefficient tool for collaboration, especially with remote teams. Email is a poor form of asynchronous communication, so use your defined team collaboration site for most of your dialog. Eliminate email for your project. Executive status, approvals and the like may benefit from email, but little else.
- Use Precise Language, Especially With Remote Teams
Don’t be lazy with your grammar nor your word choice. I have seen far too many times when I have had to translate a user story simply because the person was not precise enough with language and didn’t keep the reader and the user in mind. Treat each task, document, issue description as if you were writing a critical thesis paper to be graded by your toughest professor. Double check the wording and make sure it makes sense to the receiver of the message and defines the task with the utmost clarity.
- Deliver News (Good or Bad) Before It Becomes A Reality
If a requirement change, technical hurdle, mistake, or personal issue will negatively affect your project timeline, then inform the constituents as soon as possible. Transparency is critical to gain the trust of your stakeholders. If you describe events after they happen, you will need all your Houdini skills to avoid sounding like an excuse maker instead of a problem solver.
- Set Up Systematic Continuous Improvement Loops
Mistakes happen; they are part of the journey. People can pardon a mistake or two and chalk it down as a learning exercise. Continuous mistakes will force a discontinuation of your PM duties. Implement systematic continuous improvement processes to address issues, learn from them, and ensure they do not recur.
- Enforce An Agile Approach
Following these 7 steps will go a long way towards improving your Customer/User satisfaction and optimizing the overall quality of deliverables. They can enhance customer satisfaction, optimize the quality of deliverables, and foster a high-performing team. Instead of drowning in 15,000 LinkedIn groups, focus on these fundamental principles to steer your projects towards success. Remember, the essence of project leadership lies in elevating the performance of your entire team. In the end, it is not about knowing everything, it’s about applying the right principles effectively.