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Agile Management: Common Myths & Misconceptions

Often to understand what something is – we have to understand what it isn’t. When it comes to agile management, we’ve found this approach to be one of the best ways to clearly explain this management methodology.

Perhaps you’re trying to get your team on-board with agile management or you’re putting together a presentation to upper management about agile management. Whatever the scenario, our goal is to give you a clear concise way to explain to others what the agile management system involves. Share this post with your social media contacts, your colleagues, or even reuse it in your presentation – we want to spread the word on what agile management really is.

The Agile Manifesto

The agile approach to management was developed in February 2001 when 17 people from a diverse background came together to find a common ground for working together. This group named themselves “The Agile Alliance” and worked towards a common goal of improving the way organizations achieve balance in how they work, operate, communicate, and achieve outcomes.

This group of forward-thinkers is responsible for defining and communicating the Agile Manifesto and its values:
  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.
These core values and principles of the Agile Manifesto, is derived from a set of 12 concepts that organizations are urged to use when using, thinking about, implementing, and behaving agile. (Read the Principles Behind The Agile Manifesto.)

It should be noted that while agile management was born out of a focus on software development – agile is now widely recognized and used by numerous organization and companies who are not involved in software development. The Agile Manifesto and its core principles can be used by any organization striving to keep pace in these fast-moving times – while maintaining focus, balance, real outcomes, and success.

Top Agile Myths

You’ve likely received some push-back about agile management – not to worry – we’ve put together the top myths about agile. Remember, we want you to share this with others and reuse this in your presentations – the more people who understand agile management methodology – the better.
  1. No planning. This very common myth is likely tied to the final bullet in the Agile Manifesto. The agile approach to planning is counter-intuitive to what most people consider a plan. Rather than define a rigid plan and timetable on day one, the agile approach delivers this planning through-out the duration of the project. As stories get completed or not, new challenges are discovered, or team members come and go – the plan can be tweaked and adjusted to meet the current conditions, customer needs, and priorities.
  2. No documentation. Yes, there is a line in the Agile Manifesto that clearly prioritizes the software (or other deliverable) over the documentation. However, documentation is still a necessary aspect of the agile management system. The traditional documentation approach has the technical writer waiting to the end of the project to document the project. With agile, the documentation is part of the story and is completed during the iteration. This ensures that nothing is overlooked and that the documentation is specific and narrow-in-focus – eliminating large guides and introductions.
  3. No large projects. For people, new to agile or who have been doing agile not-quite-right, they struggle to understand how this management system works for large-scale projects. The secret to success for large and small projects lies in clearly defined deliverables/goals, breaking these into clear stories, and then balancing the stories within the iteration. The better able the product owner is in defining the project and the essential components of the project – the better the success rate.
  4. Agile is easy. For most organizations, agile management is a change – a big change. As you know, there is nothing easy about change. Implementing agile is not easy, but it is not impossible. To ensure the move to agile is done correctly and successfully, companies are smart to invest in the best agile management software and tools they can, to attend agile management training courses, and to bring an on-site trainer into the office to guide team members in how to make the transition to agile.
  5. Lacks discipline. If anything, the exact opposite is true – for real success, the entire organization down must be committed to agile management. It takes a disciplined project team who is aligned with the key goals of the project to see this approach work. For some agile teams, there is constant change and adjustment based on customer and market demands, meeting deliverables within this state of flux requires a deep level of skills expertise, teamwork, discipline, and communication.

Moving Forward with Agile Management

The challenge for any project manager or product owner is in convincing team members that change is required. Too often, companies get stuck in a rut and are afraid to make changes in how they work, communicate, plan, and deliver their projects.

The best thing you can do is to provide your colleagues and management with access to leading resources on agile management. One option is to do a test-run of agile management in your company with a small project – this gives you and your team a chance to demonstrate how agile can work in your organization.

Remember, there are no hard-and-fast rules for successful agile management – read the 12 principles, review the Agile Manifesto, do your research, take some courses, and do what works for you and your organization.