Agile Project Management – Turned Our Project into a Well Oiled Machine
About Agile, Scrum, Iterative Project Management
Agile project management or iterative project management is about setting clearly defined goals. It brings accountability, speed, and quick wins that keep teams motivated. With its iterative delivery, agility, flexibility and collaboration, agile project management creates an enhanced sense of team ownership and business satisfaction. Scrum is a specific flavour of agile project management. (Check out this post for a more detailed description)
Agile Project Management – Not Just For Software
Here is an example of a situation that describes a learning project that was in trouble and how we used agile project management and successfully turned it around. This monster learning project ultimately became a well oiled machine and allowed us to exceed our customer expectations on quality and delivery time.
The learning project objective was to train a team of +500 on one of the company’s flagship software products and it included a daunting list of courses including eLearning, interactive job aids, videos and a web portal.
What was the project problem?
The project was a nightmare. It was already in progress for 2 years, and completion was nowhere on the horizon. Like a black hole, it gobbled up resources.
If we ever wanted to be able to free our resources from this project we had to find a way to rein it in. Key things needed to be addressed:
- Definition of project team roles
- Clearer definition of goals and their associated tasks
- Delivery of business value
- Consistent execution of update and planning meetings
What did we do to fix it?
With the adoption of the agile project management approach, an agile project manager or Scrum Master was aligned. He supported us in the agile process, cleared blocking issues and offered a valuable, objective perspective.
We incorporated these key components of agile scrum into our project.
1. Product Backlog
The Product Backlog is a high level, sized, and prioritized list of requirements for a product. For a curriculum, it can be used to map out a list of courses. For a single course, it can used to map out topics or knowledge areas. It would be a list of milestones or requirements for any type of project.
2. Sprint Backlog
The Sprint Backlog is a document listing all of the tasks required to complete a Product Backlog item within a specified period of time, in our case we used 2 week sprints. Work and tasks are identified by team members and the time to complete each task is estimated. The whole team knows exactly what to do, who is going to do it, and how long it will take to get it done.
Standups are status update meetings for the project team. These meetings are held several times a week and should last no more than 15 minutes. They can take place in-person if possible (we would often have to call into the meetings because our teams were not co-located). Each team member answered three questions in each meeting: What have you done since the last meeting? What will you do next? What obstacles have you encountered? Standups foster open communication, transparency, and accountability. Potential obstacles are identified and resolved before they turn into problems.
4. Demo and Retrospective
A Demo is a presentation to the team and stakeholders of what was created within a sprint. A Retrospective is a team meeting at the end of the Sprint to discuss what went well, what can be improved, and what will be done differently in the next Sprint.
The Demo showcases tangible progress to the stakeholders and team members, and provides opportunity for feedback. The Retrospective identifies opportunities for improvement which can be turned into actionable items that boost the team’s efficiency.
Results Achieved With Agile Project Management
After a few weeks of working through the learning curve and with support from the experienced scrum master, we quickly started to operate like a well oiled machine. We made adjustments on the fly and supported one another as required to reach our goals. Nobody on an agile project team wants to be the cause of failing a sprint (not reaching one of the goals). Team members did whatever it took to help peers complete their tasks so the team succeeded.
Our velocity increased sprint after sprint. At our peak we were designing, developing and deploying 20 – 30 minute robust eLearning courses every four weeks (2 weeks design, 2 weeks multi-media development & deployment). This usually takes 6-8 weeks.
This approach became a model that our learning team used for a handful of projects following this one.
At WFS we also use agile practices to help us manage our organization, team and projects.
Thanks for your interest,
Manager, Learning & Development
Web Financial Solutions
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