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Managing projects according to the latest trends

With agile methods all the rage, the role of the project leader is changing but remains as vital as ever

‘Agility’ is well and truly in fashion. I myself am a true believer. It means being able to adapt swiftly to changes in our environment.

But ‘agile’ is not a licence for anarchy. There’s still a place for planning and organisation. It’s first and foremost a way of thinking. Besides, several different fields did not wait for the advent of agile methods to start managing projects this way. What’s changing is that the thinking is spreading increasingly to new sectors.

How does all this affect projects? How has project management evolved? Answer: the same as the environment in which projects are being conducted.

If we consider society as a whole, methods for managing teams have evolved. Individuals are given more responsibility and managers now exert a less paternalistic ‘coaching’ role.

This change has also influenced the way in which projects are managed. Project managers have learnt to work in tandem with project teams, keenly aware that they do not have the monopoly on expertise. A good project manager, like a good people manager, does not micro-manage.

Currently, project managers:

  • Make available the resources for the team to estimate the effort required to produce the expected deliverables – they trust the team for the result

  • Coordinate the work from the perspective of the deliverables, focusing on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’ – they know that the smart people are the ones inside the team

  • Structure communication around the project, ensuring that the best person to deliver the message is actually the one who does it

  • Include the team and all stakeholders concerned in the risk management side of things

  • Consult as many people as possible before making choices, aware of their responsibility for ensuring that decisions are timely

There are three broad categories of method for managing projects:

  • Waterfall

  • Rolling wave

  • Agile thinking

Whichever method is adopted, the responsibilities intrinsic to project management must be assumed just the same. Projects must always be conducted:

On budget

  • On time