7 Tips to Agile Planning
By Elizabeth Cambridge
As a project manager, I am constantly aware of how important and time-consuming planning can be. Not to mention how often some well-laid plans need to be scrapped to accommodate new developments and unforeseen changes. Despite these frustrations, we can all agree that planning is a necessity and trying to eliminate it from the project development process is not an option.
Therefore, the challenge in planning lies in adopting and practicing a set of principles that can help one accomplish 2 very important goals: one, to a plan with flexibility; and two, to ensure that the plan aids progress.
In the world of software development a novel concept and project management methodology was developed and practiced with some amazing results. This methodology, known as Agile Project Management is an iterative process that builds upon incremental progress.
Agile Planning, as I like to call it, will help you achieve more in less time if applied properly. Here are 7 principles that you can utilize to both plan and achieve your goals more effectively regardless of your profession or industry.
- Plan for Incremental Progress: Create a list of all the tasks that need to get done over the course of the project to the best of your ability. Then, select a few that can be completed over the next week or two max. Anything more and you will run into traditional planning issues like burnout, requirement changes, etc. Also, this short time sprint,as it is called, is the most we can hope to control in today’s fast paced world. Basically, a sprint is designed to encourage “incremental progress.” This means that you must produce a tangible result from a sprint that you, your team or customer can see/use/drive. When you finish a project incrementally, you build momentum and create a culture of productivity.
Deliver Early and Often: Building on the previous step, this principle suggests that your task list must be designed in such a way that you and your team is producing at the end of the sprint. So, whether it’s one week or two, make sure you are delivering a tangible result at the end of the sprint. Early or often deliveries will help keep things moving forward. This will also help you test-drive product releases early to detect bugs and issues.
Responding to Change: As we already know, change is constant. And, trying to control change is often futile. So treat change like a surprise guest who shows up unannounced: appoint the room after he arrives, not before. In other words, deal with the change after it arrives or only if necessary. Moreover, change can distract. So, deal with it if necessary and then correct your course immediately after. Veer off too much and before you know it, you will be way off track and way off budget.
Less is Definitely More: Short sprints or cycles lead to improved efficiency of effort. Individuals and teams alike tend to stay productive when they can focus on a few target oriented tasks. So, when you are discussing the upcoming sprint, allow the individuals who are actually doing the work to decide what they can or cannot do. This will help boost morale, increase accountability and often vouch for a better product/result.
Cut the Bloat: Whatever is not necessary must go. Make simplicity a policy and do what’s best and most important first. The rest is just not worth the time or effort.
Analyze and Adjust: If you are still working on that task 5 hours after the scheduled 2, then its time to drop it. Throwing good time after bad is not productive or worth it. Constantly analyze your tasks and adjust your time and effort accordingly.
Cleanliness of Method: In other words, focus on one task at a time. Delivering a tangible product or result at the end of a sprint requires a certain level of commitment and clarity of purpose. If you try to do too much or add more than what is scheduled on the sprint you will cause burnout.
Remember, the crux of agile planning is to aid progress and produce results often and early. Amplify what works and discard what doesn’t. You are the boss of your project. Happy Agile Planning!
Elizabeth Cambridge aims to “make entrepreneurship possible” by providing small business owners with effective solutions to successfully increase their company’s growth, visibility, and reachability. Contact Elizabeth today for a consultation by going to her website at http://www.QuilonConsultancy.com/