Agile Project Management Challenges and How to Tackle Them

The greatest project management challenge of a good manager is to come up with solutions for their team to do more with the same amount of resources. To do so, project managers need to implement methodologies that help their team communicate better, manage risks, and deliver their products in a faster manner.

An approach that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, for both small businesses and large corporations, is Agile. It was developed as a response to the many issues a traditional waterfall methodology brought to both teams and project managers. But, although Agile aims to help teams deliver products faster and better, be them software or marketing projects, it does not come free of challenges, especially when first implementing it.

Reluctance to change

Probably, the most common issue when it comes to transitioning to Agile is breaking people’s work habits. Teams who are used to work with a more traditional approach can have a hard time switching to Agile methodologies, especially if the organizational culture does not aim to prepare the team for such changes. Senior executives, project managers, team leaders, and team members all need to be ready to embrace new ideas, for Agile to become efficient.

Sometimes, the changes that come with Agile are not on an organizational level only and require some actual physical alterations to the office as well. Agile is based on communication and human interaction, so it often requires the entire team to be put in the same room, to streamline communication. If the entire office consists of one floor filled with cubicles, it can be quite hard to make it happen, so you might need to rethink the floorplan.

Lack of experience and unsuited training

If your team has no experience when it comes to Agile, implementing it can be a real pain. You can’t expect people who are used to work in a specific manner, to suddenly change their habits and become Agile experts without proper training. But oftentimes, training is not enough and the company needs to be open to making some changes.

An agile team consists of a Scrum Master, often known as a team leader, whose job is to make sure the team knows and makes use of Agile principles, a product owner, and the rest of the team members. If the company does not have someone qualified to take on the Scrum Master position, then they might need to hire someone new for the job. This means that the HR department needs to know exactly what the qualities of a good Scrum Master are, in order to find someone suited for the job.

Lack of team ownership

Agile aims to help team members take ownership of their work and break loose of the habit of being told what to do. In order for Agile to work, team members need to learn to take ownership of their work and make decisions without waiting for instructions. To do so, the project manager needs to encourage the team to communicate more openly and become more engaged with the project.

To encourage individual team members to take ownership, managers need to push them towards analyzing and coming up with their own solutions, when faced with an issue, instead of awaiting instructions.

In fact, the core principle of the Agile manifesto is to find motivated individuals, provide them with the environment and support they need and trust them to do their job.

This can’t happen if each team member checks with their boss every time a decision needs to be made.

Poor communication

When it comes to Agile, communication is key. If the team members cannot communicate easily, the project might suffer. To do so, the company needs to provide proper communication channels, especially for distributed teams. For teams who work in the same office, implementing Agile is much easier, as they can all meet in one room and discuss. But when it comes to distributed teams, where team members are all working in different offices or, even more difficult, in different time zones, communication can become quite hard.

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The most effective solution is to invest in good communication channels. Each team member needs to be able to contact their teammates whenever they need and the easiest way to do so is to provide communication tools, such as Skype or Google Hangouts, and other online collaboration tools. This way, video conferences can be scheduled and everyone can keep communication open at any time.

Unprepared scrum master

With Agile, the Team Leader becomes the Scrum Master, whose purpose is to identify and remove any barriers the team may encounter, rather than dictating how people need to handle their tasks. When the project managers are used to give instructions and keep everything under their control, it can be quite hard to strip them off of these customs.

With proper Agile coaching, project managers can be taught how to leave micromanagement behind and give team members the power to make decisions on their own. This will not only help facilitate their job but also allow Scrum Masters to focus on the most important aspects of their work, which is identifying the team’s needs and presenting them to the board of command.

Being too ambitious

Some companies want to adopt Agile on a large scale throughout the company, without focusing on each project at once. Attempting to adopt a new methodology for the entire company may be too much to do in one take.

To ensure efficiency, you need to start small and implement Agile within one or two teams at first. After those teams can handle everything on their own, you can go ahead and move towards the next ones. By implementing change gradually, you can avoid having to handle multiple issues at once and focus on getting things done one at a time. Plus, if you pay attention to the struggles the first teams have when getting used to Agile, it will be easier to handle these issues for the following teams.

If implemented correctly, Agile solutions can help finish a project in a much more efficient way, both time and money-wise. But to do so, companies must understand what the core principles of Agile are and what challenges they might bring within the team. Fortunately, if identified, these challenges can be faced and the team’s productivity will visibly increase.

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Jainish Patel
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Jainish Patel

Well posted. It’s helpful to learn about the planning of particular software.

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