Introducing an Agile Perspective

Blog post
By Pam Ashby | 11 October 2018

The secret of effective dog training is to catch the dog doing the ‘right thing’ and praise them for it. So Jon Ward wasn’t concerned when his APM South East audience of project managers protested ‘But we’re doing a lot of this already!’ when he presented a session introducing some of the wisdom and intricacies of working in an Agile way.

Participation and collaboration is a key part of Agile, and Jon didn’t disappoint. He started the sessions by asking people to stand up if they:

  • Regularly use Earned Value techniques 
  • Understand the maths behind Earned Value
  • Help project teams to deliver value

So the room was on its feet. A great way to demonstrate that Agile working is all about a complete focus on delivering and measuring value. Agile thinking was already a part of the day to day operation of the project managers in the room. Jon now proceeded to offer detail around Agile processes that would enable people to build on the effectiveness of what they were already doing.

Understanding the tools and techniques

Samantha Jenkinson, Senior Project Manager at Saga plc said about this talk, “The transition from waterfall project management to Agile, or a hybrid of both is not impossible once you have an understanding of the right tools and techniques. The content was very relevant to me and it was great getting a better understanding of the jargon.”  

Jon did provide some valuable plain English definitions:

Backlog – “this is your shopping list for the supermarket” says Jon, but beware “because the kids will still try to throw stuff in the basket”.

Scrum – a process where a team collaborates closely “to push the ball over the line” i.e. from ‘in progress’ to ‘done’

Sprint – a team running together towards a goal with single focus, no stopping or distractions, but achieving a sustainable pace

The issue of control

A common fear of project managers is that by using Agile techniques they’ll lose control of the project. This was of course one of the drivers for the development of AgilePM® – the world’s leading certification in Agile Project Management – and now AgileDS.

Jon showed how Agile enhances project control by using visual control techniques such as Kanban – “After all,” he reminded everyone, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. He also explained that iterative working and progressing through feedback loops means there is continual forecasting within an Agile environment. “At the end of every sprint, new things are tested,” said Jon, “And existing functionality is regression tested as well, so quality assurance occurs at the earliest possible stage.” Constant feedback and steering of direction, visual controls, forecasting and early identification of risk all increase the control that is a central principle of an Agile approach. 

“Agile without metrics is anarchy. Agile without quality is pointless” Jon concluded. “And the best aspect of Agile is that it works.” 

Jon Ward was presenting at an APM South East Branch event on October 8 2018.


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