There are many measures of success – achieving a goal, modifying a behavior, or sustaining a change, to name a few. As critical as success is for any organization, defining it is often easier than attaining it. In the realm of software development, a long-proven means of realizing success is following the Agile method. With many professionals certified in IT Agile project management, P&N’s multidisciplinary consulting team decided to investigate first-hand how this method could be applied beyond software development.
Before exploring the outcome of applying this methodology beyond software development, it’s important to understand what Agile means in terms of general project management. “It’s not like building a house or an office,” P&N Associate Director Jeremy Sanders explains.
In some forms of project management, he says, “You have to think through the plan in its entirety and get the whole process mapped out in advance.” When building a house, there might be months of extensive planning before any physical work is done. When the work starts, the steps are very linear and follow the detailed plan until completion. That kind of process works great for construction, according to Sanders, who adds, “You can make changes along the way, but you can’t install a kitchen cabinet before the foundation is poured.”
With Agile, the planning is broken down into smaller, incremental goals. Sanders points out that a guiding idea within Agile is that “It is better to execute a good plan today than wait for a perfect plan tomorrow.” For many organizations, this strategy requires a change of mindset. A team must move from “We want to achieve X in a year,” to “What are all the steps we have to take to achieve the final result?” Goals are established in terms of what can reasonably be accomplished in a shorter period, called a “sprint.”
According to the Agile Alliance, one thing that separates Agile from other project management styles is a stronger focus on the people doing the work and how they work together. Priorities are not set from the top down, or dictated solely by chronology. The working group comes together regularly to establish priorities for each sprint. Those priorities can change as the project moves forward.
The P&N consulting team applied the Agile methodology internally to a client services group. This niche team was doing solid work, but needed to accelerate their growth and achieve other important milestones. The challenge was how such a small group of professionals could focus on initiatives important to the success of the whole team while everyone was very busy doing their daily jobs. Particularly, the team struggled to develop new business when each individual was already “wearing so many hats,” according to the team leader, P&N Associate Director Krystal Pertuit.
The group met with Sanders and learned the principles of Agile methodology. Then, they identified and implemented what would work for their group, including shorter but more frequent meetings, reducing large goals to manageable sprints, and creating an agreed-upon set of tasks and priorities.
Using Agile methods, this internal team met all their established goals in terms of business development, client service, marketing content, recruiting, and partnerships. Pertuit said that her team had always “done a good job of getting things done,” but with the change to Agile project management, “it creates a high level of visibility for everyone about what is being accomplished.” She said it also allows for enhanced support for and among team members—if a sprint hasn’t been completed, the whole group can offer help or reevaluate its priority.
Two years later, the team is still tackling new projects using the Agile method. They increased revenue, transformed their goal-achieving behaviors, and sustained the change. In the end, we found that applying Agile methodology to a project outside software development can contribute to organization, efficiency, and positive outcomes.
P&N can help evaluate how Agile methodology may work for your organization’s unique structure and goals. Our consulting professionals combine a deep understanding of business operations with powerful technical resources and a team of experienced project managers. P&N provides business process design, staff training, implementation of strategic initiatives, and deployment of software programs, such as JIRA, to help manage information and updates. Contact us to discuss transforming high-level goals into manageable steps toward success.