“Agility” is the ability to move quickly & easily. However, when it comes to project management, Agility transforms into a multifaceted term which has different meanings at different levels.
- At the Enterprise Level, agility refers to the ability to change the type of products, platforms/ services/ the entire portfolio or even the business model. Moreover, it will require doing so continuously as a response to the needs of the stakeholders or the market (for example: to keep up with the competitors or a technology disruption)
- At the Process Level, it means the ability to change your process of manufacturing, operations etc. and doing this continuously and proactively
- And at the Project Level, it is the ability to change the project plan, take in new requirements etc. quickly and continuously.
At all the three levels, the efficiency with which the change happens becomes the key factor defining the success of Agility. And contrary to popular belief, there is NO one-size-fits-all “Agile solution” for every enterprise and project.
Successful Agility would therefore be a mix of different flavors like – self-directed and autonomous teams, a proactive & positive attitude toward change, the ability of the team/individuals to learn quickly, dealing with risks, uncertainties, and challenges are some examples. The most suitable process for the project/organization can only be finalized after the Project Manager/ PMO runs several iterations of various tools & practices, to fine-tune the efficiency of the team/company to its optimum level.
A few of the critical factors for the success of Agility in a project are:
- Acceptance of Agility: The acceptance of agility as a work culture, and the whole-hearted acceptance of the changes that this process requires from all roles of the organization is a key factor.
- Organizational Structure & Culture: The roles, functions, and organizational structure plays an important part in the success of an agile workforce. This will determine the true depth of power that the team holds in developing a project – and determines its pro-activeness & effective collaboration. A culture which embraces failure, encourages the team to overcome hurdles & navigate change with the right attitude is required to build an Agile organization.
- Entrepreneurial Culture: The Lean Movement or the Startup Movement stresses on the fast growth of a company – be it an organization with 40 employees or 1000+. It is the mindset of embracing growth that makes it such an important factor in the success of Agility.
- Team Allocation: All the resources allocated to the project should work a 100% on that project only. This is required to create a steady, strong, and responsive development momentum.
- Adequate Rewards: It is very important to reward the people who are directly and consistently contributing to the organization’s success.
- Learning Mindset & Knowledge Management Systems: It is very important that individuals/teams keep learning as they grow. And what better a tool to sustain this process than an updated Knowledge Management System?
- Agile-style Work Environment: The physical environment also contributes to an organization’s Agility. Right from seating arrangements; to the encouraged communication style between colleagues and management (formal/informal; hierarchical vs. open door etc) all determine an organization’s openness towards agility.
Other important factors to consider while exploring agility are forming of multidisciplinary teams, and regularly measuring the performance of the individual/team/project/product, decentralized decision making.
It is the Leadership that will leverage the above factors to achieve the right balance of Agility required for the team and organization to be successful in achieving its goals.
Reference: Chow, T., & Cao, D. B. (2008). A survey of critical success factors in agile software projects. The Journal of Systems and Software, 81(6), 961–971.