Agile Project Management’s Problem Solving Approach

Agile Project Management’s Problem Solving Approach mainly focuses on short and incremental iterative development of projects (Sauer and Reich, 2009; Larman, 2004) while at the same taking into cognisance the phases of TPM (Hewson, 2006). The agile project management technique incorporates part of the spiral model (Cadle and Yeates, 2008).

However it differs from the spiral model because it emphasises on collaboration and iterations that are conducted over a short period of time (i.e. mainly weeks and not months) (Schuh, 2005). This iterative nature of APM makes it suitable for projects that are carried out during conditions of uncertainty and rapidly changing complex environments (Alleman, 2005; Hewson, 2006). This approach is best illustrated in Figures 2.4 and 2.5 below. In figure 2.3 the prioritised list consists of a list of requirements or features ranked according to their value as per client’s needs. In APM only a few of these ranked requirements are selected for development at each stage. Just like in TPM, the subset of selected requirements is then analysed, developed, tested and evaluated during a short, fixed period of iteration. In addition risk assessment is also carried out in stage 4 to minimise the effect of anticipated risks in the given activity and thus making this process more robust.

Meetings with stakeholders and project teams for feedback on the incremental progress are a regular feature in APM approach to problem solving. In addition lessons learnt and recommendations for future are gathered in these meetings and used to improve the next iteration. Thus APM approach is such that “ instead of trying to develop the whole system in one go, the system is divided into a number of iterations each adding some functionality or perhaps improved performance to its predecessors” (Cadle and Yeates:79). One important feature of APM is that there is continuous collaboration between consultant and the client during the progress of the project which enhances more understanding of both the business and technical requirements for the development of subsequent iterations. The benefits of such an approach are well documented, for example Owen et al (2006) and Macheredis (2009) claim that APM results in improved managerial and personnel skills, responsiveness, speed, flexibility, quality and predictability. In addition it may also be argued that by achieving these benefits the organisation may also have downstream gains through cost minimisation, short time delivery that helps them to deal with more clients and increased customer satisfaction that results in good customer retention.

The problem solving approach employed by agile is described as humanistic in nature (Griffiths, 2007; Augustine and Woodcock, 2008). This makes it more appropriate for application in consulting firms because of the highly skilled workers, uncertainties and the high stakes involved in most of these organisations. It is described as humanistic in nature because of the following characteristics which are somewhat loosely or strongly exhibited in some consulting firms.

·         It takes into consideration the valuable skills of employees and their contribution to project teams

·         Employees are considered to be valuable stakeholders

·         Autonomous teams are an integral part of the problem solving methods (i.e. the power of numbers).

·         It takes uncertainty into consideration by reducing the number of advanced planning

·         It also stresses on the organisation’s ability to adapt to the changing environment.

Just like TPM, agile project management is not immune to criticism. For instance, according to Fitsilis (2008) APM methodologies are not complete when analysed from the traditional project management perspective because some of its processes (such as communications management and project integration management) are either vague or absent. Some of APM’s demerits that have been put forward include loss of titles due to flattening of organisational hierarchies, possible organisational crisis due to increased visibility of people, possible budgeting problems due to short timeframes involved, difficulties in project kickoff due to vague plans, too demanding because of too much client involvement and potential loss of privacy (Highsmith, 2008). Therefore it is necessary when making a choice for one to weigh its benefits against the disadvantages associated in relation to the circumstances and project type.

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