How to get started with Agile Project Management?

managing the agile projects, scrum, agile, nonprofit

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Are you looking for a flexible methodology of working? You probably heard somewhere about Agile, Scrum, Extreme Programming or Kanban. It’s important to know that Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming are part of the agile framework.  Agile was created by a group of developers in ’70s and with some of the time, it revolutionized the IT industry. Nowadays it’s used not only by IT squads and developers’ teams but also by normal teams – marketing, human resources and nonprofit organizations. It’s very universal and what’s more important, can increase significantly productivity and effectiveness. 

All these working styles have some differences but also one simple and common rule: to divide a big task into a few smaller ones. For example, Scrum includes more rules and identified roles like Product Owner or Scrum Master. In Kanban, you don’t have something like that but you have to illustrate the workflow, tasks in progress and expected to end.

You need to choose the major structure for your team depends on what needs and expectations you have. Often teams combine Scrum with Kanban and Kanban with Scrum because these agile methodologies can complement each other. If you want to have daily standups – no problem or maybe you prefer to show on the board tasks to do/in progress and ended – let’s do it. If these two aren’t perfect for you, choose others which will suit you. These methods have the goal to be flexible and easy to adapt, but like everything, they have also some points. But don’t be scared – they were rather created for helping and guiding you through all the methodology than to make your life harder and more complicated.

Elements of every agile project

Agile projects are in principle very open and elastic. It is more like philosophy than the strict rules you have to follow. Because if a team don’t feel it or managers overused it – it won’t work well. The whole company have to understand the sense of agile and why it is so useful and helpful. Depends on what each team chose generic rules can be different or modified but the major points in agile are:

  • Transparency
  • Regular meetings
  • Clear goal
  • Cooperation
  • Software to work in (Trello, Jira or others) – you don’t need Jira if you have something as good as it (it’s also free for nonprofits)

Of course, we can find more simple words which describe our agile thinking like “self-sufficient”. But the aim of the agile is also to minimalize additional work and avoid long, boring meetings with endless discussion. So we stop at this point and discuss other elements later.

Primary rules in projects with agile methodology

It is 4 basic principles which every agile methodology have in common:

  1. Divide work into short cycles – cut a goal to smaller pieces of things to do, and cut them twice or more to achieve a small simple task which you will be able to do during one Sprint. Agile “Sprints” almost always take from 2 to 4 weeks and during them, you have to be able to do a whole task. Better create a few smaller than one bigger.
  2. Respect the people – everybody in the team should treat and value others well. When you work in an agile project you should trust each other, be helpful and take care of each member. Otherwise, it will be hard to be transparent.
  3. Work directly with a client – the guest should take part in your project, see results and in some way control a project.
  4. Chose the simplest options – don’t complicate work if it’s not needed. Describe tasks in easy nad clearly way that they will be understandable to everyone, even if somebody knows nothing about this project.

There are of course more guidelines to use the Agile in 100%:

  • Focus on delivering client satisfaction by making the product that he/she wants. 
  • By each Sprint deliver a “ready” product, it means that each part of your product should be ready to use. 

For example, you are preparing a marketing campaign and your goal for this Sprint is to prepare 5 posters which will be posted on social media. And at the end of the Sprint, you should show others your posters which are ready to publish.

  • The best way to talk with your colleagues is face to face. You avoid any misunderstandings and in meanwhile build trust, honesty and friendly atmosphere. 
  • The team should be self-contained, it means that it has all the necessary skills and abilities to execute all tasks. The self-sufficient team doesn’t need help from the outside, it’s independent and works in its own time.
  • Meetings can’t be long and unproductive. This is against the agile. Prepare a draft of the meeting and try to follow it. If some of the participants need to discuss some cases it should include only the most important things for the team. Others things can be done after regular meetings or during standups.

Managing the agile projects

Depending on what primary methodology you will choose, answer to this question will be different. Because as we said before each of the agile methodologies has different assumptions.

Scrum is a highly adopted framework which uses a short time of work called Sprint. It includes daily 5 minutes meetings called standups and Scrum Planning/ Review for every begin and end of the Sprint. In Scrum, there are 3 the most important roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Scrum Team members. To successful work you need Backlog, where you keep all tasks for future and Board where you have current tasks. Role of the Product Owner is to organize a Backlog and prioritize tasks for each Sprint. Scrum Master takes control at meetings and help the team if they need it. Choosing tasks for next Sprint belongs to the task of all the team. Each of them chooses duties which he/she would like to do in next Sprint.

Kanban more than others styles visualized workflow. It cuts work on small pieces and directly shows the progress of each task. It’s perfect for finding a source of problems, wasting time and things which don’t work. It measures and well manages all the process of work so you are able to find bottlenecks. Kanban includes also a limit of the amount of work which you can take at once. That rule makes sure that teams won’t take too much work for each cycle before they end others. It promotes collaboration with the client and the team, nonstop learning and finding the best workflow. 

Extreme Programming focuses on principles and ensuring that delivered products are the highest quality. In XP teams work also in short cycles, very closely. They are ready to adapt and change structure adapting to a new reality/situation/plan. It means that the team and client are ready to deliver products frequently, faster with higher effectiveness.

Lean software development is a methodology originally developed as a Lean enterprise movement in Japan and used in big companies like Toyota. In this methodology, the most important is giving satisfaction for a client and bringing values into the project. Lean focuses on values like eliminating waste, building integrity and empowering the team, making decisions as late as possible! and bringing results as fast as possible, amplifying learning and maybe the hardest visualizing the whole project

Being a colleague and leader at the same time – Managing a team

Do you know how to be a peer and leader at the same time? For sure it’s not easy and not everybody could be both at the same time. But even you can’t be both you have to be kind, nice and friendly. Because agile is not for dictators as it requires openness and trust. 

In agile methodology, hierarchy is built on experience, knowledge and competence, not on authority. Performance is not based on the sweetest smile and being nice to your boss but on adding value and bringing results to the team. Agile methodology is real, comparing to rules in several corporations. 

In a good environment, the agile team continually growing, developing and learning. It’s working with a client and with each other. All members are looking for new ways to do things better, faster and easier. They’re exploring the world with a flexible and open point of view just to find new opportunities for them. 

So my tips for you is to:

  • build trust in your team – you have to trust them, and they have to trust you
  • find solutions which don’t hurt anybody and are the best for all members
  • be open and honest with your team – comprehension is important
  • don’t avoid meetings which can integrate you – if they ask you to go with them, it means they like you and want to go with them
  • and at the end be human as they are. all of you are just humans so you can be angry or sad but you can’t move your feelings to your partners.

Few words at the end

When agile methodology became more and more popular many people thought that small teams couldn’t handle big projects. But it’s not true. They even work better than big squads without agile methodology under a bureaucracy. Some people even say that if a project is shorter, there is a higher success rate. Agile is an essential part of every type of project and has a big influence on work and productiveness in teams. Agile methodologies bring good values, practices, principles and benefits which are a better option than the traditional management. Use it, there is a lot of free articles, books and webinars which help you implement agile thinking to your team. 

If you need more tutorials and articles about Scrum you can visit Unfortunately, the “agile methodology” website is old so I advise you to visit other sites. Or you can read some of our articles about Project Management in nonprofits

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