“Why is agile leadership more important than ever?” This is a question that many project managers struggle with. The answer isn’t as simple as saying that agile improve team building. It is more of a question of understanding the basic definition of agile and what it does for your business.
A short description of agile is “a process for managing change in a small/short period of time.” A defining moment for the concept was made in 1986 by John Maddox, who explained that the need for a streamlined method for managing change for short-run projects was required for the creation of a viable market. He envisioned a concept that would help teams eliminate much of the trial and error that took place during the planning process. He hoped that the focus on speed would remove much of the stress that inhibited progress during the project.
While the need for agility was certainly felt by all involved, there were a number of obstacles that prevented the implementation of this model immediately. One of the first issues was that the definition of “agility” was seen as a change from what had been the norm in the business world. Many project managers and senior managers resisted the change at first believing that it was simply a rehashing of the traditional concepts. It took a strong effort on the part of a group of agile leaders to persuade these managers that this was in fact a change in philosophy and should be embraced instead of fought against. The Leadership Styles adapt to change and the willingness of the project teams to change with it made the concept acceptable to a majority of the project teams. This also helped to dispel the notion that agile was not just for large organizations.
The definition of agile that was agreed upon by the agile leaders was something that was simple and straightforward. It focused on four key principles. These were scalability, agility, resiliency, and quality. Each of these was grounded in the idea that every business environment is unique and project teams needed to think about how they could best serve their customers. This led to the adoption of principles that allowed flexibility within the project framework.
Scaling the project was the next item on the agenda and it was brought up by only a few individuals. While most project managers understand that the larger a project gets, the more resources it needs, not all are comfortable with the size of the projects and therefore prefer smaller projects that will allow for better design and testing of software. Agile teams can adapt to the desired size very quickly because of the way that the model works. The ability for teams to scale up and down is tied directly to the scalability of the software.
Agility was designed to improve the resiliency of a software system. Resiliency is the ability for a software system to resist outside attacks and the longer the project goes, the more chance there is of internal attacks from other teams or from the project manager. The idea was that shorter projects would give individuals more time to become familiar with the software and to provide input on the improvement of the project. There are arguments to both sides of this argument and a lot of people believe that longer projects are the answer in many circumstances. The question is whether agility is important enough to cause a team to choose it over a longer model.
In an organization that uses agile methods all the time, the answer may be no. The assumption here is that a project team has a deep understanding of Agile and what defines it. These individuals are also highly skilled in their respective fields and therefore might not have the same perspectives as a non-expert team would have. Agile is not a popularity contest; it’s not about who can use it faster. The focus is more on quality and the ability to deliver quality code to customers in a timely fashion. Delivering quality work at a faster rate is important, but not in and of itself if the team members delivering that work have little understanding of what Agile really means or what its actual characteristics are.
For project managers who understand the value of Agile and how it can help their team succeed, the focus is less on what method is right for a given project but more on finding the right group of people to bring that methodology into the project. If these individuals have spent years working on Agile projects then they will naturally understand the nuances and the differences. This understanding will translate into better results for the project and a successful execution of the Agile delivery model. Whether or not using agile in a project is important at all is really a personal decision based upon the type of results the project will yield and the success it could potentially have.