When it comes to project management practices, there isn’t much that’s built from the ground up. Many of the world’s most successful organizations follow established frameworks and methodologies that have been around for decades and which are still re-examined and updated on a regular basis. It’s easier, efficient, and enables managers to benefit from ideas and insight that may well fall outside of their personal experiences.
The same can be said for ‘Agile’. Originally a style of managing software development, it has since been applied to project management. Agile is far less centralized and top-down than waterfall style management, with more autonomy for individual project team members and an iterative approach to establishing, working towards, and benefiting from targets.
However, unlike other big names in project management such as PRINCE2 and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), Agile remains more of a style of working than a strictly defined methodology. There are differing ideas on what constitutes an ‘Agile framework’, not only between software and project management teams but also between organizations of different sizes, sectors, and so on.
Because of this, whenever someone chooses to adopt Agile simply because of its prestige, it can be surprisingly easy to make a mistake.
What is ‘Badgile’?
In his 2019 article, ‘Badgile – The Horror Stories of Agile Gone Wrong’, software engineering leader James Willis coined the term ‘Badgile’. It was based on his understanding that, for Agile to succeed, it must be consciously adapted to suit individual teams.
He stated, “I have worked with my team to build what I think is a pretty great process, but I would never think to pick it up wholesale and impose it upon other teams in other organizations. A great process is about layering principles onto individual situations, what comes out is probably different variations per team even within the same organization. When I say bad or wrong, I mean indisputably bad, just a whole pile of stinky wrongness…”
In many ways, Agile itself is a buzzword, but there are also several that fall under the Agile umbrella, such as ‘stand-ups’, ‘sprints’, and ‘Scrum’. While these all have their own definitions, they too require conscious effort to apply properly. They are not, as sad as it may sound, magic bullets that help teams hit their targets every single time.
James continues by discussing his own experiences leading teams: “There are a lot of reasons teams struggle to put a good Agile process in place:
- “Lack of understanding
- “No buy-in from executives
- “No buy-in from the team
- “Fear of change
What does this all mean? To put it simply, Agile becomes ‘Badgile’ when users do not take the time to understand the different elements of Agile in a way that lets them identify when, why, and how to apply them properly.
For many teams, a quasi-Agile approach is not necessarily superior to waterfall methods. This is true even if the structure, goals, and resources of these teams would typically favor Agile over traditional project management. Others may well enjoy gains with a flawed approach but will nonetheless fail to reach the level of success that comes from truly mastering the style.
So, for an organization that can benefit from adopting Agile, how can managers, supervisors, team members, and stakeholders avoid falling into the Badgile trap?
Avoiding mistakes in Agile project management
Given what we’ve written above, it’d be somewhat hypocritical to offer an exact guide for avoiding bad Agile practices. As we have said, using Agile correctly requires the ability to adapt the approach in a way that suits your own needs, structure, and environment.
As such, we will be laying out some of the most important considerations to make when managing Agile projects:
- Expect resistance – Moving from traditional to Agile project management practices can cause friction, especially for more well-established companies. It is important to establish confidence in the benefits of Agile and how they translate for your own employees, managers, and stakeholders, so be prepared to make your case and be proactive in managing resistance to change
- Financial justifications – Frameworks like AgilePM generally do not define a project’s scope and expenses as clearly as waterfall methods. This can seem risky to some, and so you must be ready to keep mitigating concerns with appropriate performance metrics and business justifications. Many companies invest in Agile business analysis to stop Agile projects from accruing unreasonable costs or losing their focus
- Managing Agile implementation – Ironically, taking a waterfall-oriented approach can often be the best way to first implement Agile practices in a business. For a lot of organizations, this can mean investing in Agile training for teams and departments or at least adjusting recruitment processes to focus on scouting seasoned Agile managers and engineers. It’s important to realize that Agile may need to be introduced relatively slowly at first. You will also likely need to keep delivering updates and justifications along the way while keeping communication channels open for anyone who may have questions, such as team members or executives
- Learn from failure – Every Agile project or program can deliver insight on how to better-utilize the approach in the future. Evaluating your results, you may identify limitations in the form of legacy systems, team structures, bottlenecks, and so on. Agile is best treated as a process of continually learning and improving. While you can identify the most significant roadblocks early on, you should never make the mistake of thinking there are no more ways to refine your unique Agile management process
- Pick and choose – Agile project management practices will always be more applicable in some areas than others. There is no need to use the Agile stamp everywhere. In some cases, the reliability of traditional project management will be the best call. As we mentioned earlier, it can be a mistake to pursue Agile for its own sake. Instead, ask yourself: is Agile the best method for meeting my current and future strategic business goals?
Studying Agile project management
Many old school Agile practitioners will tell you that it’s better to learn Agile on the job than from a syllabus. This is certainly the case for some people. However, as we mentioned at the start of the article, very little in project and program management is built from the ground up. For individuals and organizations that want to start enjoying the benefits of Agile as efficiently as possible, Agile training can be the best option.
For project management, two of the most significant Agile certifications are PRINCE2 Agile and AgilePM.
- PRINCE2 Agile – PRINCE2 is the world’s most popular project management framework. While it takes a traditional approach, the growing popularity of Agile prompted AXELOS to release a version that could cater to Agile environments. ‘PRINCE2 Agile’ offers the benefits of both worlds, with a style that mixes controlled governance with flexibility and adaptability
- AgilePM – Based on the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), AgilePM is another framework that seeks to give Agile project managers a greater level of control while still letting them enjoy the benefits of Agile. It was developed by the Agile Business Consortium and delivers insight based on years of practical experience in applying and adapting Agile to suit unique projects and programs
Good e-Learning is an award-winning online training provider with a diverse portfolio of fully accredited courses. Want to find out more about our approach to Agile online training? Visit the Good e-Learning website, or contact a member of our team today!