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Categories: Agile

The Agile community has some good ideas to pass down to conventional project managers, including:

Customer Engagement
While it may not be possible to iterate the building of a piece of machinery, engaging and explaining to the customer in their language--no jargon--what's happening will highlight issues early. If the customer doesn't like something, the sooner you know, the better.

One of the key tenets of Agile is to engage effectively with your customer and end-users, understand their needs and problems, and then deliver an effective solution. This requires regular and effective communication, openness and accountability, and a good measure of trust to support robust relationships between the project team and their key stakeholders. It's a pity so many project managers put their energies into fighting the client rather than collaborating.

Going Light and Lean
Those are hardly new ideas, but they've been embraced by the Agile philosophy for a good reason: They work. Lean was developed by Toyota as a manufacturing philosophy and has been adapted to many other areas. Some of its key principles--such as minimizing unnecessary movement, simplifying process and continuous improvement--have huge potential in project management.

Light is focused on the minimizing unnecessary overhead. Complex plans and processes should be simplified, but only to remove excess complication, not to remove core requirements.  

Slimming down the project management overhead to its optimal level is probably the easiest way to free up the resources needed to engage your stakeholders more effectively and is definitely supported by the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

For more information, see Light Versus Lean -- Steps to Improve Project Efficiency from PMI's Community Post.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: May 27, 2009 10:45 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Michael Mrkobrada
"Simplicity is the root of many things some of which, in the master's hands can be used to create monumental change. Start by doing little to accomplish much!" (Tao, 28) Recent studies show that many IT projects fail to the various degree in delivering the initial requirements. The predominant SW development methodology is still the SDLC or "waterfall approach" in SW developemnt. In that situation any Project Management Methodology, if properly implemented, will succeed in decreasing the rate and extent of failures but, it is not the silver bullet to eliminate inherent problems in SDLC development methodology! One can imagine what would be the rate of failures if no project management is in place at all! The practice of Project Management, after implemented in the enterprise one way, rarely experiments with new approaches when faced with the "stream" of projects to manage. PM's are often asked (and tasked) to manage potential problems (expressed as risks) and taking the leadership in applying and experimenting with new approaches in preventing and solving problems is often discuraged ("why change it when it works most of the time..") Agile approach can be very important project management methodology to mitigate risks in rescue efforts to salvage complex IT projects in trouble. The crisis, after a project failure, can provide the supportive environment to try the fresh approach in managing rescue efforts, especially in projects where 100% delivery of initial requirements is NOT an apsolute business requirements. Sharing some personal experience where agile is the appropriate method and what the role of the PM may be in that project I already discussed in my recent comment to the Agile:the Great Debate post.

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP
Lynda, The two examples you give have always been at the forefront of how I managed my projects. I don't consider these to be "owned" by any framework or methodology. Customer engagement should be at the forefront of what any project manager does. We learn that 90% of our job is communicating and around 50% of this should be communication and relationship building with your customer. Looking back I can say that I always had fewer problems on those project where I had taken the time to properly engage the customer and make the effort to get to know them on a personal level. It's amazing how much a customer will "forgive" if they like working with you and they see that you are doing everything you can to make this project a success for them. And in regards to Light and Lean I look at this as a good business practice not just on projects. I am personally "a bit" lazy and if there is a way that I can make my life easier by streamlining processes and eliminating waste then I will happily do so. [Begin sarcasm] And if this happens to also increase efficiency on my project then I gladly accept it. [/End sarcasm]

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