Project Managers are Key to Agile Success

More teams are finding it advantageous to incorporate Agile concepts into their traditional waterfall project management structure. This strategy can deliver some big benefits, but a hybrid approach has the potential to present challenges if PMs don’t address a few key issues early in the process.


Whether this is your first time implementing a hybrid strategy or your project group has had trouble bringing Agile and waterfall together in the past, consider if there are some additional steps you can take to make the effort a success.

Though several disciplines and functional areas have been leveraging Agile’s principles for a number of years, many have not. It’s important that PMs recognize that some team members may not be familiar with the Agile framework. Even stakeholders with significant project experience under their belts might not know what a Kanban Board is. The notion of sprints could be completely foreign to them. This creates fertile ground for problems, since you’ll soon have a flurry of terminology and concepts flowing through the project team that could cause confusion and introduce the potential for errors and miscommunications.

PMs may also encounter stakeholders who don’t see Agile as a legitimate project strategyor who strongly believe it isn’t the best approach for the initiative that’s currently in front of them. A subset of people could be vocal with their pushback but others are likely to keep their opinions to themselves, choosing instead to simply continue with the framework they normally use. It’s a mistake to assume it will be easy to change anyone’s mind on this—some team members will ignore all but the most vigorous efforts to get them to employ Agile’s principles.

The good news is that these issues aren’t insurmountable and ultimate success is still achievable. But getting past a lack of understanding or a reluctance to use Agile requires PMs to acknowledge that some additional training is likely to be necessary. They should also focus on securing stakeholder buy-in early when it comes to adopting Agile.

Provide targeted training so everyone is on the same page

You need to know that your team understands the concepts of Agile well enough to navigate a hybrid environment. Unless you’re a long-time master of the Agile approach, most PMs will find that working with an experienced instructor is the most effective and efficient option when it comes to teaching Agile’s concepts to a project team. A qualified trainer will ensure your group’s questions are answered and that they’ve learned what they need to know to make the most of the hybrid approach you plan to use. A skilled teacher can also discuss how to fit Agile’s concepts alongside the waterfall strategy so your team has a better real-world idea of the bigger project management picture. Scenario training may also be employed to help stakeholders retain the information better and prepare them to tackle the challenges and risks they’re likely to face.

Find a knowledgeable partner to fill in any missing project strategy expertise

A project management consulting firm with a background in blending Agile and waterfall approaches can be a tremendous asset in driving a hybrid project to a successful completion. As you evaluate potential partners, ask about the tools and techniques they have available to help manage the different status update reporting schedules from one cross-functional group to the next. Inquire about their ability to provide facilitation expertise to assist the team in working through problems. The consultancy’s communications acumen is also important, as it will enable them to answer questions that may arise regarding the best way to dovetail Agile and waterfall.

PMAlliance offers project management consulting, training and portfolio management services.

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