A prevailing attitude towards agile project delivery is that it will probably result in a sub-standard product because the project is being delivered quickly. This is not true. Agile project delivery provides a way for you to achieve an effective result in a world where you know that you don’t have all of the information at your fingertips at this moment.
How Agile Works
Agile project management starts with a vision of the change that you want to make in the world. Focusing on the change you want to make is the same starting point for any project. Once you know what change you are making, you can start to plan your project. In Agile Project Management, you have user stories, a backlog, sprints and retrospectives.
A user story follows the simple format: “As a [person], I want to [do something], so that [the result I want].” As a project manager, or person doing work in the project, helping people define what their user stories help you be empathetic to what people want and need as a result of this project. Once you have a vision of the change you are making, the first action to take is to find the user stories related to that change. What do people want? Why do they want that change?
A stack of user stories is called your backlog. Keeping track of your backlog is essential because users don’t want to have to retell their story repeatedly. Every couple of weeks, you will look over your backlog and choose the most important and pressing work to be done. Collating the user stories in your backlog and selecting the highest priority items will define your next sprint.
A sprint is a set amount of time (usually 2 – 4 weeks) in which you will be doing the work that you have selected from the backlog. It is crucial to estimate the work needed for the user stories well. The work that you choose must be complete by the end of the sprint. During a sprint, you are only working on what you have selected at the beginning of the sprint. If there are other priorities, they are turned into user stories and can be considered with all of the other backlog items for the next sprint. Not only must the work you select be complete at the end of a sprint but whatever you produce must be usable by the customers.
At the end of a sprint, you have a retrospective meeting. This is the meeting where you discuss what went well and what you can improve on for the next sprint. A “retrospective” is focused on improving the process of your project delivery. Maybe you need to have better estimates for how long it will take to address user stories. Perhaps you need better testing procedures to produce a usable product at the end of the sprint. Retrospective meetings are the times where your team will improve your process, and ultimately deliver your results.
Using agile project management, you can quickly deliver small bits of value exactly as the customer requests.