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Questions and Concerns about Transitioning to Agile Methodologies

Transitioning to agile project management means making an active, conscious effort to work with new methods and to abandon old habits. Questions and concerns naturally arise. Anticipating and addressing those issues can make your transition run more smoothly.

Questions to address before transitioning to agile methods

Some key questions to consider as you anticipate a transition to agile methodologies:

  • What are the organizational roadblocks? Is there a value-delivery culture or a risk-management culture? Does your organization support coaching and mentorship alongside management? Is there support for training? How does the organization define success? Is there an open culture that will embrace high visibility of project progress?

  • How are you doing business today? How are projects planned at the macro level? Is the organization fixated on fixed scope? How engaged are business representatives? Do you outsource development?

  • How do your teams work today, and what will need to shift under agile methods? How ingrained is waterfall? Is there a strong command and control mentality in the team? Can good ideas come from anywhere? Is there trust in the team? Are people shared across teams? What do you need to ask for to secure a shift? Can you get people, tools, space, and commitment to pilot the change?

  • What are the regulatory challenges? Are there processes and procedures that relate to regulatory requirements? Are these requirements imposed upon you externally or are they internally adopted regulations and standards? Will you need to create additional documentation to satisfy regulatory requirements? Are you likely to be audited for compliance, and what would be the cost of noncompliance?

Possible concerns raised in a transition to agile methods

As you review your analysis of the roadblocks and challenges, you may uncover concerns that affect the organization:

  • Agile approaches reveal that the organization needs to change. As you compare agile practices and results with the traditional waterfall project-management method, you'll reveal that performance has not been all it could have been. You need to tackle this head on. Your organization has done its best to produce a result, often in the face of extreme challenges. For all parties involved, you have to acknowledge their efforts and introduce the potential of agile processes to allow them to produce yet greater results.

  • Project management leaders see agile processes as a threat. Current project management leaders earned their position through hard work, long hours of study, certification, and years of leadership. They may view some of that value slipping away in a transition to agile processes. Present the agile methodology as an extension of project managers' capabilities and career, not as devaluing anything they've worked hard to secure.

  • Moving from leadership to service model can be challenging. When you move to an agile methodology, leaders are now in service. Command and control gives way to facilitation. This is a big shift for the project team. You have to consider how to demonstrate the shift as a positive result for everyone.

Some resistance is natural as change can't happen without opposition. Be ready for resistance, but don't let it thwart your overall plan.

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