Transitioning to Agile? What Project Managers Must Know About This Hot Methodology

How Agile Has Become the Talk of the Town and What it Means to Be Left Behind

Walk into any business conference or eavesdrop on any discussion with managers and execs in the corporate world and the term, Agile, invariably pops up along with associated terms such as Kanban, Scrum, and DevOps.

While these terms might seem “alien” to those project managers schooled in “traditional” Software Project Management Methodologies such as the SDLC or Waterfall methods wherein the linear and the sequential process was long considered the “gold standard” of project management.

In recent years, just about any manager or exec is busy figuring out what Agile means and how this “emerging and hot” methodology needs more than a passing acquaintance to be adopted.

In other words, while the “jargon” is indeed exciting as the term signifies nimbleness, agility, flexibility, adaptability, and a certain response to real time events just like the 24/7 world we live in, it takes much effort for those managers steeped in earlier generation project management methodologies.

Having said that, it is also the case that most project managers do not really have a choice but to embrace Agile since customers are demanding it or it is a very useful methodology to adopt for any corporate in the present times.

What It Takes to Transition to Agile for Project Managers

So, if your organization is transitioning to Agile, and you as a project manager, would not like to be caught in a “time warp” or simply left behind, or made obsolete like the Dodos, there are some things that you can do.

First, Agile requires more of a mindset change apart from the change in the structure of the way projects are executed.

The point to note here is that Agile follows an Open Systems method where the distinctions between Designers, Developers, Testers, and Implementers as well as Support Personnel are all but obliterated and instead, a typical team member or for that matter, a Project Manager is expected to “wear all hats” and hence, everyone in the team has their roles “rolled into each other”.

This can be disorienting to Project Managers used to thinking about each of these roles as “silos” and where each distinct role belongs to the corresponding team and hence, has designated Team Leaders.

Indeed, in Agile frameworks, as soon as a customer request comes in or a bug is noticed in the software or the product, the assigned team member immediately, checks the request, designs and develops the fix, tests it using any of the automated tools, releases it into production, and then provides customer support for the same.

How Agile Works in the Real World

For instance, if Netflix or Amazon wants to release a particular piece of code or fix a bug, or as their business demands, release a new feature, Agile allows and enables them to do so in real time in a systemic manner rather than a “linear” and sequential manner.

Indeed, using Amazon’s DevOps which is an Agile Methodology Software allows Agile teams to immediately attend to the next release in a real time manner.

For Project Managers, it can mean the end of treating project management as a series of phases or steps wherein they keep track and monitor each phase in a sequential manner.

Taking the example of an Ant Colony, one can observe how Ants “change their paths” and adapt to changing events while at the same time hoarding food and other things that they need.

As the Queen Ant monitors, likewise the Project Managers too must be the ones who work with autonomous team members and monitor and track the overall progress.

Apart from this, Agile Project Managers also need to understand that “ownership” of tasks and units of work is not as rigid as before and instead, such ownership is collective and team based.

Why Project Managers Must be the Jack of All Trades for Embracing Agile Framework

Recent research suggests that while Project Managers in their 40s are learning to keep pace with Agile, there are also enough indications that for those who fail to do so, the consequences can be quite painful. As news reports about the downsizing of Middle Managers indicate, automation and the emerging world of technology means that even the managers who were once the “rock stars” of cutting edge technologies in their times, can be at the receiving end.

This is the reason why many organizations are appointing Agile Coaches would take the Project Managers “through the pace” and enable them to make the transition to Agile.

Apart from this, Agile also calls for “transferable skills” wherein multi specialists and generalists are the norm.

In other words, while earlier, team members and managers needed to be Master of a Specific Skill, now the saying, Jack of All Trades, is true as they need to be versatile and adaptable rather than be narrowly focused or excessively specialized.


Lastly, as the world changes, newer methodologies would emerge to keep pace with changing external imperatives and this is the reason why all managers need to keep themselves “ahead of the curve” so that they do not miss out.

Indeed, online learning websites such as this and employer offered training programs can be a good source of skill acquisition for managers wanting to transition to newer methodologies.

Moreover, the mindset change needed for Agile can only actualize if you, as a manager, embrace an open minded attitude instead of being “fossilized” in the past where your comfort level is more.

To conclude, exponentially accelerating technology needs corresponding changes in management methodologies and Agile represents one such framework.

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Project Management