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Four ways agile project management and pandemics were made for each other

Professional discussing information and building strategies with post it notes.

In the best of times, Agile Project Management is an effective way to get things done. In the worst of times – like a virus pandemic – it could be a lifesaver, sometimes literally.

Rachel Lamb, for one, views the Agile methodology as perfect for a situation like the COVD-19 crisis, or any crisis situation. Lamb, PMP, is an instructor in Purdue University’s Project Management training program and teaches a course that prepares participants to apply Agile Project Management. She has 20 years of process improvement experience in a range of industries, including aerospace, automotive, energy and hospitality.

Here are four ways Agile is made for the kind of uncertain times we’re living through.

Uncertainty is the name of the game

Agile is designed to manage high uncertainty situations where requirements are not well understood at the outset or are rapidly evolving.

Sound familiar?

“I think Agile totally applies to today’s environment,” Lamb said. “It’s all about rapidly changing requirements and your ability to adapt in a structured way.”

 

Continuous improvement is built in

If one thing is certain about the pandemic, it’s that there are a lot of things still uncertain about it. The Agile method deals with uncertainty by taking an iterative approach to the situation being addressed, whether in a crisis or the normal course of business. The idea is to break a project into stages with improvement possible at every stage.

“With each iteration, you’re getting feedback,” Lamb said. “Then you incorporate your feedback in the next iteration. You’re able to continuously improve with each iteration.”

 

Flexibility and prioritization are key features

Responding to COVID-19 has not only been like hitting a moving target but one that’s changing shape on the fly, too. Responding to change is a central focus of the Agile method. Each stage incorporates a process of gathering information, designing and building a solution, testing and deploying it. Every execution of this presents an opportunity to make adjustments as conditions dictate, and to reset priorities where needed to address high priority, high value items.

“As scope changes happen, as requirement changes happen, you can quickly adapt and move on,” Lamb said.

 

People are a primary input

Ultimately, the answer to the pandemic is people, well informed and acting responsibly. Being Agile requires communication and collaboration between team members and stakeholders throughout the process. It isn’t just about involving everyone at the beginning or waiting for a reaction at the end.

Regular interactions guide the adaptations and improvements that lead to quality results. At the same time, Lamb said, the Agile method serves to minimize risk, which in the case of COVID-19 response is the overarching goal.

Want to know more about Agile? Purdue offers an Agile Project Management course open to anyone. Purdue’s Project Management training program also offers an online Project Management Essentials course and a Project Management Exam Preparation course. All the courses are based on standards set by the Project Management Institute (PMI) ®, the global standard-setting body for project management.

 

Writer: Greg Kline, 765-494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu