Mark C. Layton – Agile Project Management for Dummies

Mark C. Layton, known globally as Mr. Agile, is an organizational strategist and PMI certification instructor with over 20 years in the project/program management field. He is the Los Angeles chair for the Agile Leadership Network and is the founder of Platinum Edge, an organizational improvement company that supports businesses making the Waterfall-to-Agile transition. When he isn’t overseeing client engagements, Mark is a frequent speaker on extreme programming (XP), lean, scrum, and other agile solutions. In Agile Project Management for Dummies (published in June 2012) Layton defines agile project management approaches and teaches you the steps to execute agile techniques on a project. The material here goes beyond theory and is meant to be a field manual.

In Part I: Understanding Agile the author defines Agile project management as a style of project management that focuses on early delivery of business value, continuous improvement of the project’s product and processes, scope flexibility, team input, and delivering well-tested products that reflect customer needs.

In 1970, a computer scientist named Winston Royce wrote “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems,” an article for the IEEE that described the phases in the waterfall methodology. In waterfall projects, you move to the next phase only when the prior one is complete — hence, the name waterfall. Pure waterfall project management — completing each step in full before moving to the next step — is actually a misinterpretation of Royce’s suggestions. Royce identified that this approach was inherently risky and recommended prototyping and working within iterations to create products.

Project managers and stakeholders know that change is not welcome mid-project, and that their best chance of getting a potentially desirable feature is at the project start, so they ask for

  • Everything they need

  • Everything they think they may need

  • Everything they want

  • Everything they think they may want

The result is the bloat in features that results in the statistics. Agile, in product development terms, is a description for project management methodologies that focus on people, communications, the product, and flexibility. There are many agile methodologies, including scrum, extreme programming, and Lean, all adhering to the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Principles.

If you fully commit to an agile approach, you will find you have a better chance at project success. Key areas where agile approaches are superior to traditional project management methods:

  • project success rates
  • scope creep
  • inspection & adaption

The creators of the Agile Manifesto originally focused on software development because they worked in the IT industry. However, since 2001, agile project management techniques have spread beyond software development and even outside of computer-related products. Today, people use agile approaches to create products in a variety of industries, including medicine, engineering, marketing, nonprofit work, and even building construction. If you can create a product, you can benefit from agile methods. An agile environment is human-centric and participatory and can be readily adapted to new ideas and innovations.

Agile project management provides two benefits that are especially attractive to executives: efficiency and higher, quicker return on investment.

In Part II: Being Agile, agile frameworks are described, like Lean, Extreme Programming (XP) and Scrum. Agile project management is an empirical project management approach. In other words, you do something in practice and adjust your approach based on experience rather than theory. The basis for agile approaches is not the same as that of traditional project management methodologies, such as waterfall, which was rooted in a defined control method used for World War II materials procurement.

Next, putting agile into action, creating a work space, low-tech communication and using the right high-tech communication, plus finding and using the tools you need. The author shares tips on setting up agile roles, creating agile values in your organization, transforming your team’s philosophy and sharpening important skills.

In Part III Working in Agile,  the day-to-day work in the life of an agile project is showcased. Important for project managers: not only will you plan the overall project, you also will plan every release, every sprint, and every day. Planning is fundamental to agile project success. Agile projects involve planning up front and throughout the entire project. By planning at the last responsible moment, right before an activity starts, you know the most about that activity.  The Roadmap to Value gives a great framework for planinng, decomposition and refining.

Part IV: Managing in Agile Layton helps you understand how to manage each of the different project management areas using agile approaches. You’ll know how agile processes affect project scope, procurement, time, cost, teams, communication, quality, and risk.

In Part V: Ensuring Agile Success you learn about successfully transitioning your organization to agile project management. You find out how to build a strong agile foundation and learn specific steps for moving from a traditional project management approach to an agile approach.

In Part VI: The Part of Tens 10 key benefits of agile project management are presented:

  1. better product quality
  2. higher customer satisfaction
  3. higher team morale
  4. increased collaboration and ownership
  5. customized team structures
  6. more relevant metrics
  7. improved performance visibility
  8. increased project control
  9. increased project predictability
  10. reduced risk

You’ll see ten benefits of agile project management, ten metrics you can use to measure agile project success:

  1. sprint goal succes rates
  2. defects
  3. total project duration
  4. time to market
  5. total project cost
  6. return on investment
  7. new requests within ROI budget
  8. capital redeployment
  9. satisfaction surveys
  10. team member turnover

and ten resources to help you along your agile journey:

  1. Agile Project Management for Dummies Online Cheat Sheet
  2. Agile Alliance
  3. Scrum Alliance
  4. Project Management Institute Agile Community
  5. Agile Leadership Network
  6. Scrum Development Yahoo! Group
  7. InfoQ online community
  8. Lean Essays (Mary and Tom Poppendieck)
  9. What is Extreme Programming?
  10.  Platinum Edge

Read some free excerpts: chapter 1, index and table of contents.