When embarking on a new project at work, it’s important to have a structure in place to guide your project to success. A plan is important, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Luckily, there are lots of tried and tested approaches to project management out there for you to choose from — these are called methodologies, and many are grouped into different families for organizations to use.
Agile methodologies are some of the most popular approaches to project management, and if you’re wondering why, the clue is in the name — Agile methodologies allow project managers to be nimble and flexible, adapt to challenges as they arise, and pivot quickly to the most successful way of working.
There’s a lot to understand about Agile project management to use it effectively in your organization. In this piece, we’ll cover what Agile is, the fundamental Agile values and principles, and how to incorporate the principles of Agile into your next project.
What is Agile project management?
First off, what is Agile project management? Simply put, it is a way of approaching project management that uses Agile values and principles to pave the way for project success. Agile uses a set of four values and 12 principles to guide project managers in their own work.
These Agile values and principles were first developed and set out in a charter known as the Agile manifesto, which was written in 2001 at a gathering of developers and programming professionals. The Agile manifesto was created to find a solution to older project management methodologies and processes that were seen as unworkable for modern projects.
The Agile manifesto had 17 signatories, who went on to be known as the Agile Alliance. Once the manifesto was released, the Alliance grew to eventually have more than 72,000 members worldwide, who all embrace the values and principles of Agile project management in their daily work.
So, what kind of projects can be managed using Agile? Although it was originally developed for programming projects specifically, Agile lived up to its name and was able to be adapted for many different projects across a variety of industries. Agile is a flexible option for projects and allows goals to be changed without impacting the overall success of the project. This flexibility means that Agile is suitable for teams who like to move fast, without too many limitations or deadlines. If your team is consistent with its communication and enjoys less structure and more adaptability, Agile could be for you.
But what are the core values and principles that make up the Agile methodology? Let’s explore each of them in detail.
What are the four values of Agile?
First off, let’s explore the Agile values.
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
This is a cornerstone of Agile project management — favoring communication and interpersonal relationships over strict processes. Agile advises a more personalized approach to project management, where teams constantly communicate, rather than relying on more stagnant scheduled updates.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
Agile teams are not big fans of paperwork. They would rather utilize more flexible software solutions to manage their data, reports, and status updates than traditional documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Agile teams love collaboration, and that includes regularly updating and liaising with customers and stakeholders to get their input on how the project is progressing. Lengthy contracts with lots of revisions are part of the documentation that Agile teams prefer to move away from.
- Responding to change over following a plan
Finally, we have the value that characterizes Agile project management above all else. Agile teams are responsive to change and thrive off adapting to new environments and challenges.
These values inform every process and task that is done under the Agile umbrella. But what are the 12 principles, which delve further into what makes Agile so unique?
What are the 12 principles of Agile?
You may notice that many of Agile’s principles relate specifically to software development. As this was the background of many members of the original Agile Alliance, it was a strong focus for the Agile manifesto. However, these principles are still applicable to projects in other areas and industries — let’s take a closer look at how.
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software
Agile teams place their customers’ happiness first and foremost and prioritize delivering results at regular intervals, rather than have them wait for one final reveal at the end of the process.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage
Agile teams are ready and able to tackle changes, even at the last minute. This gives them an advantage over more traditional teams, who may not take to change management so easily.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale
Again, we note that Agile teams are all about regular and consistent communication, rather than scheduled updates that may be too far apart to be workable for clients. Scrum teams, which fall under the Agile umbrella, break their workloads down into one to four week-long timelines, known as sprints.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project
Collaboration is key in Agile, not just between team members, but with stakeholders, developers, customers, and other relevant parties.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done
Agile teams are successful because they make sure to structure their team with the right people for the project. Once your team members have the support, collaboration, and tools they need to succeed, the rest will follow.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation
We can all admit that there is no substitute for in-person collaboration when it comes to project management. But this principle is also applicable in our ‘new normal’ of hybrid and remote working models. Zoom and Teams are a great alternative to phone calls and email, and teams can also make the effort to meet in person for key points of progression throughout the project.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress
This principle cites software as its main deliverable, but its message endures — your focus as a team should always be to deliver the best quality result to your customers as possible. If they are satisfied, then that is the strongest indicator of your project’s success.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely
This can be a difficult task for many teams, who may come out of the gate with a burst of quick progress, before falling to a slower pace for the rest of the project. Agile teams must ensure that their working pace is consistent throughout the project.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility
Agile is not a ‘one and done’ approach to project management. Every new project offers the opportunity for innovation and to create something new — not to keep rehashing the same ideas.
- Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential
Agile teams do not get bogged down in overcomplication — they meet their requirements, do their jobs well, and move on to the next project.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
The best teams are those with a leader who is not afraid to let them shine. Micro-managing rarely makes any team better or more productive, and Agile teams are great examples of what can happen when this is not the case.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly
Continuous improvement is the name of the game in Agile, and regular performance reviews of the team as a whole can help to break unhelpful habits and lead to more success.
How to implement Agile values and principles into your projects
You may be ready to give Agile project management a go, but are wondering how best to keep to the manifesto’s guidelines.
There is no one way to implement Agile values and principles into your projects. The Agile manifesto is an intuitive guide for your teams to make their own — as long as you keep to the core ideas of Agile, you can adapt it to suit the needs of your project.
One way to ensure success is to utilize project management software that is compatible with the principles of Agile. A collaborative work management tool like Wrike can aid your Agile team to project success with features like:
- One source of truth for reports, edits, and comments, with no unnecessary paperwork
- @mentions and app integrations, which ensure that all communication can be done in one place for quick and consistent updates
- Customizable request and intake forms, so that work can be clearly prioritized and you can make the most of every sprint
- Ready-to-use templates for your team, including Agile teamwork, sprint planning, Kanban projects, and more
Discover how Wrike can bring your team to Agile success. Start a free two-week trial now.