If you have found your way to this post, we’re assuming you’ve heard the term “Agile project management” and are somewhat curious as to what it is all about.

The first thing to understand is that Agile is more a set of principles than one particular methodology.

Where did the concept of Agile come from?

Back in 2001, 17 technology leaders on retreat in Utah developed a set of 4 values and 12 principles that characterise the Agile approach to projects. The 4 values prioritise individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan.

In this post we will stick to a general overview of Agile project management. But it’s important to note that there are a range of project management methodologies and frameworks based on Agile principles. These include Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming.

Agile project management is iterative and customer centric

In summary, the Agile approach to project management is characterised by a series of tasks that are conceived, executed and adapted as a situation demands, rather than a pre-planned process. Unlike more linear forms of project management such as Waterfall, it is an ongoing process of iterations of development and testing where the iterations can run concurrently or linearly.

Agile project management is often used when a project’s ultimate goals and outcomes or even the next steps are not always clear. More traditional approaches like Waterfall rely upon the entire project being completely planned and scoped before the work can begin. Let’s be honest – this is rarely the case!

Working in an Agile way relies upon constant feedback from end users, customers and stakeholders. It means being open to adjustments, pivots or course corrections based on their feedback as you progress through a project. You may even adjust the actual way you project manage and deliver different tasks as you learn what works and what doesn’t work at each stage.

What Agile is not

There a few common misconceptions about what Agile project management is and isn’t. As we said upfront, Agile is more a set of principles than a specific project management methodology. Actual methodologies include Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming.

Agile is not just for software development. While developing tech is where it all started – it is used widely in a range of industries and functions. These include hardware development, manufacturing, logistics, organisational change and marketing.

Agile is not completely flexible. While the Agile project management approach is based on being flexible, this is within reason. The general scope, goals and outcomes for a project are agreed upfront and are protected by formal change management controls. Iterative devolvement means that change can happen more frequently at a tactical level. The key is to be open to change and not too rigid when it comes to possible outcomes and the way things are done.

Agile is not the only way. There can often be good reasons to utilise a more linear, traditional approach – particularly for well-defined projects or less complex projects. For example, a more structured methodology may be better suited if you’re working with single delivery timeframes and an expectation that very little is likely to change along the way. More structured methodologies also work well when the project’s stakeholders or customers don’t need to be involved throughout the project.

Often the truth is that what works best for your organisation or project is a blend of approaches. Take the take the time to consider your project goals and determine the variables, dependencies and activities that are crucial for your project and importantly your organisation or team’s culture and preferred ways of working. Find what works for you and be consistent but always be open to doing things better.

If you do decide to implement the Agile approach in your next project, there are certifications available based on the concept. Here at the Australian Institute of Project Management, you can gain recognition for a completed certification which includes some Agile credentials and automatically be granted the AIPM Certified Practising Project Practitioner (CPPP) level of RegPM.