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5 Key Concepts to Agile Project Management


This illustration of a woman at her desk shows how the Agile Project Management method can help you keep projects organized and on-time.

Agility can be a huge asset for a team—and not just in sports. When it comes to project management, the agile methodology means that products often get to market faster and meet with more success than with more traditional approaches.

But what is agile project management? How does that mindset achieve the ultimate goal of any project—on-time, on-budget delivery of a quality product? Consider these five key concepts:

1. Adaptability

Project paths rarely line up in a linear way; they’re incremental. The iterative approach to the entire life cycle of a project means on-the-go adjustments. One advantage of this approach is that benefits are delivered throughout the timeline of the project, not all at once at the end. That pays off not just for the customer, but for the team’s morale and confidence.

Alternately, if the process takes a turn for the worse, you find out more quickly and can change course rather than slogging through to an unsatisfactory conclusion. The software industry originally embraced this sort of adaptability, in the 1990s, when many software development projects imploded—or simply took too long to complete. Industry leaders knew they needed an approach other than aiming at a target and hoping the target doesn’t move.

With agile, you zoom out to start, looking through a wide lens, and then adapt as you learn about new conditions and parameters. You home in on the target incrementally, break requirements down into pieces, and then prioritize them.

2. Efficiency

In a related way, anyone working on the agile project management team—as well as the client or customer—is empowered to identify and respond to changing requirements or goals at that moment so that the product ultimately hits the market faster. Given these conditions, agile project management has been described as continuous sprints, where planning and execution happen in ongoing waves.

Exhausting? Maybe for some. Granted, the plan does not have a firm structure, and it’s possible to lose sight of the big picture. But continuously improving means you’re more likely to have a satisfied customer and a project that falls within time and budget constraints.

3. Collaboration

In agile project management, all parties are empowered to contribute to the end goal. Collaboration builds trust and accountability and helps ensure that one faulty idea won’t go unchallenged, potentially derailing the entire process.

The bottom line: A diversity of ideas, at its best, promotes continuous improvement. And because of the adaptability of the methodology (see key concept No. 1), ideas are quickly tested and can be rejected early through the feedback loop, saving time (key concept No. 2) and money.

4. Disruption

Disruption for disruption’s sake isn’t worth much. But challenging the traditional culture to improve customer satisfaction and deliver better value is what has made agile project management the methodology of choice for many kinds of companies.

Becoming agile means change: changing culture, changing priorities, changing goals. And that can be hard. But with all stakeholders on board, managing actually becomes easier. Expectations evolve, norms get shaken up and in the end—you deliver.

5. Simplicity

Finally, from the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”: Simplicity is essential.

We’ll leave it at that.

Considering a Career in Project Management?

With a master’s in project management from Elmhurst University, you’ll learn to reach across disciplines and functions, speaking everyone’s language, to coordinate the team. We’ll teach you the tools and techniques you need to oversee a project: budgeting and monitoring, communications and team building, risk management and decision making.

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