Agile is growing beyond engineering
Working in sync with the people around you is the key to getting things done, and done well. If you’re a project manager, you likely already have your own tools and practices in place to support collaboration and ensure action items are always being checked off of the list. Of course, there’s always more to learn and implement, especially when it comes to making your organization more agile and adaptable.
The Agile principles were created for exactly this purpose, and the practices that go along with this methodology can be used by anyone to improve the way their team works together. Keep reading for a brief intro to Agile and to learn about the Agile practices project managers are using to elevate their organizations.
What is Agile?
Agile is a set of principles created by engineers, but the habits, practices, and even “ceremonies” have been adopted by many people in the results-oriented professional world.
The basics of Agile are aimed at breaking up a project into different sections and stages so that project progress and collaboration with colleagues and stakeholders can be more organized and effective. One of the major ways this can help project managers is through more efficient meetings and follow-ups.
The bottom line is that Agile isn’t a strict framework that must be followed, but a guide that can be used to help your unique team come up with methods and processes that work in your specific circumstances.
Agile Practices for Project Managers
Many Agile practices have become almost mainstream, and your team or organization might already be utilizing them (or an iteration of them) without knowing exactly where they come from. Project managers that want to implement better project planning and meeting strategies in their organizations can use Agile practices to do so. Here are a few of the most useful practices that can be used by anyone.
This practice is quite literal in its name. A standup meeting is a short meeting that usually occurs with everyone is up on their feet (to assure speed!). Traditionally, standups are daily, no more than 15 minute meetings that go over the plan for the coming day so that everyone is on the same page and updated on the most essential parts of the current project.
The three questions that users typically address in a stand up are: “What I did today,” “What I’m doing today,” and “Blockers (if any) I’m facing.” While the questions are simple, they succeed in surfacing a collective picture of the team’s current focus and momentum. When “blockers” are shared, team members often have a way to help.
They help team members discover blockers and contingent tasks and give everyone involved in the project an understanding of the bigger picture. It can be helpful to time-box these meetings to ensure everyone is moving quickly and no one gets caught up on smaller details. Luckily, Docket has a built-in timer for exactly this purpose.
Creating user stories can help project managers separate what is extremely important from what is less important in their projects. In the software engineering space, user stories are made to give the team a clear idea of the end goal — which is ultimately rooted in giving the user the best possible experience.
User stories are descriptions of units of work which reveal who we’re creating value for (the name of a persona), what the user is trying to achieve, how our efforts will help, and what the results will be.
Phrasing work to be done in this way helps keep teams and contributors focused on the “why” behind the work, and helps assure that the finished work truly does support a user’s experience. The practice can be used by project managers to outline the end goals of the project and ensure that all of the currently moving pieces are moving in the right direction.
For example, if a project manager is tasked with completely revamping a large company’s website, they might create user stories that outline an optimal user experience for visitors of the site. The focus for every team member working on this project is ultimately to make this story come to life, through work on one user story at a time.
Creating a Backlog
A backlog is essentially a long list of differently prioritized items. They aren’t necessarily action items or tasks that must be completed, but rather a list of outcomes or characteristics that the finished product (or project) must have.
In project management, creating a backlog can be a useful tool for creating action items for team members and formulating a plan of action. At the top of a backlog list are the most vital components of the project (often written as user stories), and at the bottom are the least vital.
Backlogs help assure that ideas and priorities are captured, even as the team is working on other user stories in the near term.
Using Docket’s Features for Agile Practices
If you want to start implementing some Agile practices into your meetings and project planning, start with Docket’s Daily Stand-Up Template. Agile doesn’t have to end there—during meetings, Docket’s automated note-keeping feature can help project managers stay on top of progress so they can plan their next steps. And, for teams working with Asana or Jira, notes can integrate with those accounts directly.