Take inspiration from agile project management methods

N°241b – Synopsis (8p.) – Agility
Take inspiration from agile project management methods
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Well-suited to complex environments, so-called “agile” project management methods are increasingly popular. What are the conditions required to reap the full benefits of the agile approach?

When it comes to managing projects, missteps are more the norm than the exception. Some are spectacular, such as the Taurus London Stock Exchange computerization project, finally abandoned after four years of work and £ 100 million of losses. How many construction, product development or restructuring projects are actually completed on time and on budget?

Of course, projects drift off course for many reasons. But, beyond specific circumstances, observers point to a structural issue, namely, traditional methods, based on a sequential approach, are not particularly adapted to the shifting environment in which companies operate. Traditionally, projects are broken down into successive predefined phases, from initial design to final testing. The project scope and task planning are set down in detail beforehand in order to optimize execution. Although these methods are remarkably effective in stable environments, they have serious limitations when projects involve a degree of uncertainty. Changes over the course of a sequentially-managed project may indeed be very costly and throw the entire process in disarray. People thus more or less consciously tend to stick to the initial plan, only to discover too late, in subsequent testing phases, that they have failed to integrate changes in needs or context.

This is why more and more companies are attracted by so-called agile project management methods, much more effective in uncertain contexts. Rather than planning an entire project from end to end, they break it down into incremental, iterative work cadences, which can be implemented and then tested in a short timeframe. Projects are thus conducted in successive iterations by integrating continuous feedback from earlier rounds of experimentation. Fundamentally adaptive, these methods constitute a promising alternative for managers torn between the need to organize the work of their teams and an ever increasing imperative to innovate and adapt to incessantly changing needs.

In this synopsis:
- Agile or traditional project management: How to choose?
- Use agile methods to conduct successful projects
- Help people get organized autonomously

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