As a set of rules, Agile is the great father of all agile methods. It is a general term used to describe other Agile implementation methods, including Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean, eXtreme Programming (XP). These are only the most common methodologies in the world of PM agencies. One focuses on speed and efficiency, some on improving communication and teamwork, others on rules and processes, while another ones mix these elements. The best methodology is one that is most suitable for the project, team, and client.
Scrum seems to be the most systematic one out of agile management methods. Work on projects involves:
- a small, multifunctional team (up to 9 people), to whom permanent roles and responsibilities are defined; a series of management team meetings aimed at rapid progress in product implementation development in accordance with a client’s wishes;
- work divided into so-called sprints – development cycles lasting 1–4 weeks (usually 2);
- having daily “scrums” between sprints, during which the team reports progress and obstacles;
- verifying work at a sprint review meeting at the end of each cycle to determine with the client that it meets the Definition of Done (DoD).
Organizing work in such a way enables the team to iterate, incrementally, and regularly provide the software.
Scrum was formalized as early as 1995 by Ken Schwaber, who was inspired by the article The new product development game published nine years more first in the “Harvard Business Review”. It was initially designed to create software.
Scrum seems to be the most systematic one out of agile management methods
The implementation process seems to be the most crucial element of the work based on the Scrum methodology. For the agency – the project contractor, this means that the entire project team must thoroughly understand the client’s vision; and from the level of individual work, the whole must return to the idea. This is more difficult than one might think. Sharing a vision becomes, in fact, an exercise in its formation. Setting the work in sprints, according to Scrum rules, strongly limits the time. Most projects face difficulties, but building hypotheses and repeating experiments is an integral part of Scrum. To achieve the goal, the vision should be implemented in short steps and repeated quickly, with a strong emphasis on reviewing the work.
It resembles Scrum in many respects, but it is a lighter and more evolutionary process because it is less prescriptive. However, it is guided by a project management methodology focused on Lean principles.
The name of this management model comes from the Japanese. Kanban literally means signboard, information board, figuratively speaking: be the face of something, something that attracts attention.
- improving speed during work through systematic changes to improve throughput and continuous improvement;
- increasing visibility by visualizing the workflow – a visual picture of what will happen, facilitates changing priorities, discovering process problems, prevents task blocking;
- limiting poor multitasking, but without assigned roles;
- increasing the team’s focus on things that really matter;
- assessment of continuous assessment of possible improvement;
- measurement of implementation time – how much time it takes to receive information, it optimizes the average time to complete tasks.
Kanban can work in operational or service environments where priorities can frequently change because it adapts better to changes than other methods.
In a dynamically changing world, both social and digital, everyone is continually trying to adapt to the product market (providing real value to customers). As already established, there is no single rigid methodology that would solve every problem in the face of all uncertainties. Lean says: build, measure, and learn to accept uncertainty. As it’s impossible to predict everything, one should follow common principles of agile intelligence that can be summarized as the spirit of Lean & Agile.
The implementation of each project in this spirit takes place in the following steps:
- values (hypotheses) identification;
- continuous optimization of the project;
- testing if the project is getting close to what the client wants.
It is noteworthy that understanding the customer in Lean is not only the task of marketing, sales, or management, but the entire project team. Everyone experiments individually and learns equally with the client (even if there is no direct contact with him). The experiment assumes errors, so nobody is guilty of lean. If a failure occurs, the system that caused the malfunction is instead examined and repaired.
Lean is the method focused on the issue of efficiency and waste elimination. This approach suggests that one can do more with less by dealing with three wastage dysfunctions: Muda, Mura, and Muri, also known as 3M.
Scrumban is a relatively new hybrid project management method that combines Kanban and Scrum’s mixed approach: the flexibility of the first and the structure of the second while maintaining an element of review and retrospect. However, it is assumed that instead of working in potentially restrictive sprints (only potentially saving time), one can plan on demand, as in Kanban. This means that the development team focuses on the task as needed, instead of worrying about the sprint review time and what the organization is required to provide.
- provides Scrum with some flexibility by removing sprints and enabling an adaptive approach to planning;
- supports the much-needed Kanban structure as well as meetings that help collaborate and optimize the process;
- assumes that the process must include support and maintenance of the process;
- works where the vision is unclear, or the requirements evolve.
eXtreme Programming (XP)
It is a project management methodology (also known simply as XP) that considers change to be inevitable and even natural in the creation process. Careful planning, defining rules, and necessary processes are different from Scrum. Some are very similar, but the rules on engineering practices, coding, and Test-Driven Development (TDD) make them specific for programming projects. These rules include iterative and incremental planning, gathering requirements, planning individual iterations, and integration between them. In terms of value, it represents an ideal product.
- cooperation with the client;
- courage to respond to changing requirements;
- immediate feedback;
- simplicity of communication;
- openness to taking into account changes.
The XP method was reflected in the Strategic Knowledge Integration (SKIWeb), in the American Strategic Command. With it, one can understand how eXtreme Programming translates into real life.
The study showed that most of the people involved were involved in communication. Many of them emphasized the importance of frequent, complete, and accurate contact in the XP development team. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the project, it was important that: quick responses were given, everyone took part in the meetings, decisions were made fast, and everyone was kept informed about the project.
Project management methodologies are only tools that help in project implementation. There is no one universal method that works for all industries and activities. The final details are irrelevant, it’s the broader picture that counts. It is essential that the methodology meets the organizational goals and values well, the constraints the project team has to face, the stakeholders’ needs, the risks associated with them, the size of the project, its complexity, and cost.
The methodologies described in this article are examples of AGILE management methods. However, in some organizations or projects, traditional methods will be more suitable. If you want to read about them, check out this article describing cascade management methods.