An Introduction to Agile Management

You’ve heard people talking about agile management. Maybe you’ve stumbled on some articles about “being agile” or “getting agile”. But to be honest, you’re busy and simply don’t have the time to learn about agile management.

You have a fuzzy idea that being agile has to do with how you and your colleagues work together. You might even also know that agile management methodology is all about being flexible and scalable. This is a great start in understanding the ins and outs of agile management.

In this post, we’re going to keep things pretty simple and provide you with a real introduction to agile management. There are entire books, courses, and certifications all dedicated to agile management. Have no fear, we’re not going that deep. Rather, our goal is to give you a strong understanding of agile management and ensure you understand why agile management should be part of your day-to-day.

What is Agile Management?

At the most basic definition, agile management is a system of managing people, deliverables, and goals to achieve practical and measurable outcomes. By breaking up large projects into stories or deliverables and framing these within a specific timeframe or sprint – project managers and team members are better able to work towards the ultimate goal.

For example, your company needs to design a new mobile app, the scope of the app is far-reaching with multiple target demographics and a rich feature list. You and your team are overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done. You’re getting pressure from upper management to deliver on this app as soon as possible. However, you and your team don’t even know how or where to get started. (And no, this is not a people problem…)

With agile management guiding you and your team, you do the following:

  1. Using a whiteboard and stick notes, plan out the scope of the mobile app.
  2. Break-down the scope into smaller chunks of like features.
  3. Break these features down into tasks or stories.
  4. Match these stories to each other – which stories rely on each other?
  5. Prioritize the features and then pull order the stories in each feature.
  6. Each story is assigned a weight or points, this directly correlates to how much work it will take to get the story done (remembering the number of people required).
  7. You determine how many points your team can achieve in a sprint or defined timeframe. Typically, a sprint is two weeks long.
  8. Depending on the size of your team, you break up into smaller team – each with its own set of stories.
  9. You get to work, focusing on the stories. At the end of the sprint the goal is to have all of the story work completed and eventually have an app that you can demo every two weeks – showing your progress.
  10. To stay on track and enable open communication, you and your team(s) meet for a five-minute stand-up every morning to highlight progress and the day’s work to be done.

Now, you have a workable and manageable way to deliver on what seemed like an insurmountable task. Your team is on track and understands how everyone can and will work together towards a common goal. As a manager, it’s easier for you to see progress, understand where you need more resources, and to anticipate short-comings. When agile management is done right, there should be no shocks or surprises.

What are the Benefits of Agile Management?

At its core, agile management is framed around being responsive. Because you and your team have visual representation (with the whiteboard and sticky notes), it’s easy to see progress and adjust the deliverables for the sprint. The panic that comes with development, planning, or business management is gone – everyone is working on small manageable chunks that fit together to achieve the ultimate deliverable.

If a new customer comes along that wants a new feature immediately, you can shift the team priorities, create new stories, and deliver the customer feature quickly and more easily. Because your team is working as a unit there is also a sense of camaraderie – with people supporting one another towards a common goal – just like a real team.

At a snapshot view, here are some of the key benefits of agile:

  • Responsive. Better respond to customer demands. Be able to adjust when a team member is sick or on holiday.
  • Speed. Better able to deliver a saleable product or service faster and better. Testing of each story is done during the same sprint, ensuring that errors are caught and fixed early.
  • Data. With the use of a proven agile management tool, you’re able to understand what is really happening within your teams. This data can be used for better resource planning, revenue estimates, and long-term growth potential.
  • Risk. Risk is the biggest fear factor for every business. With agile, risk becomes manageable and predictable. Know the short-comings in your team early, see how costs could run over budget, create plans for what if scenarios, and be ready for the unexpected demands from customers.
  • Happy people. No one likes to be stressed. No one wants to dread the work-day ahead. No one wants to scramble to get work done. Agile management allows you to put an end to this and keep people happy and thriving.

Perhaps the largest benefit of agile is that you can customize the agile management process to meet the needs of you and your team. Every company does agile differently – this is the secret sauce – there are no must-follow rules. Use agile management as a guide and use the best parts that work for your team.

There is lots more to learn about agile management. But we hope this has given you a strong understanding of this management process. The next steps are up to you and we hope you spend time learning more about agile management and maybe you even take a few courses or work towards an agile management certification.