Wednesday, 24 July 2013 08:35

The Agile Mindset

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Project Managers are bombarded with a plethora of well- meaning words that come in the form of articles, blogs and books. These documents discuss the impact of changes, doing more with less, in some cases a lot less and ways to implement a project despite these constraints.

These issues are important but often lack meaning as these documents speak in generalities. PM’s know that one size does not fit all. Projects come in different shapes and sizes and we are perpetually trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Projects thus are surrounded by the minutiae of all the tasks at hand and overshadowed by stakeholder concerns. So what seemed doable becomes complex and then complicated. So we are left asking- Where is the path for this project? What are the steps?

Mindfulness

Take a step back. If we look at each step closely we start to see how each task fits into the next. Project Management in its simple form is the relationship of how one task fits into another, the whole is then the some of its parts. Managing those parts to conclusion is project management. What is mindfulness in this case? By definition it’s the act of leveraging awareness, dismissing those thoughts that detract from clarity. Being mindful of each part initially takes time but as you do more you get better: your eye, your brain sees more and processes more thus there is agility to the whole process.

Must you do it all on your own? Let’s breakdown all: mindfulness is the first step and should be done in a solitary fashion. The manager must understand the whole. Enter the WBS. Most seasoned managers know the value and benefits to this task. Here are some reasons: manageability, more realistic schedules, effort and risk mitigation which in turn lends itself to a quicker faster approach and thus an agile mindset.

A common retort to this reasoning by project managers is that by creating a schedule of activity is in itself creating a WBS. Here is why it’s not. A WBS provides the framework for the overall project and drives the supporting documentation. A schedule of activity is one such piece so it acts in support of the framework. It is a necessary evil just as tracking the budget is. So even though it may seem tiresome do it anyway the benefits to the overall project are substantial.

Collaboration

The second step is the collaboration with the entire project team including the executives. It means asking the right questions face to face initially and then in whatever form works for your team and individual members. Email, Document Exchange platform, the phone, team meetings, drop by. It is important to be succinct so as not to waste time and instill a direction. Confidence is what is necessary at this point; if you have a good foundation as you have thought about the parts at their most fundamental level then you are confident about the steps. You may not know how all of it works but that’s okay. Ask those highly experienced professionals on your team. What you have done in the most rudimentary way is that you have engaged and ensured that all the team members have a common understanding of task and effort. This is a sure fire way to know that the entire team is working from the same model.

Many methodologies talk about this step in different ways: For example the Agile world has the team playing poker and breaking down tasks and effort collectively. It should not matter what approach or method the idea is to be constructive and that only comes with focus and working with others from beginning to end.

Next Steps

As a trained professional you have learned about phases, you have tried methodologies. You also know what works for you and what doesn’t. I am only talking about revisiting two very basic premises no matter what the size of your project- the practice of mindfulness and collaboration. The conscious decision of these practices will quite simply show you the path and then it’s up to you on how you negotiate that path.

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Shehnaz	Hayashi

Shehnaz Hayashi PMP Cert APM is a project management consultant with an advisory catering to small/medium sized businesses specializing in tech, biotech, and health and consumer product. She can be reached via email at shayashi@rogers.com.

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