Brandon Satre 100x100

Author: Brandon Satre, PMP

On Thursday, 14 June, our chapter hosted an event on how project managers can help organizations become more agile. Timm Urschinger, CEO and co-founder of LIVEsciences AG presented on the topic at the Schützenhaus in Basel, which followed up with a very enjoyable networking apéro outside.

One thing that surprised me a bit, but perhaps not surprising to others, is that there is actually nothing new in such an approach to project management. This was Timm’s mantra throughout the presentation, so I thought it must be important enough to say here as well – Agile, it’s nothing new!

Some of the top challenges to adopting an agile method according to the 12th Annual State of Agile are organizational culture, general organizational resistance and inadequate management support. Hence, we have people like Timm driving the PM community to embrace agile concepts into their project management approach.

think outside the box

We saw first hand how well agility fits in an environment filled with uncertainty. For example, we had a couple of live poll questions via our smartphones, and one in which we were asked what we thought the biggest challenge would be to leading an organization in agile methods? After the answers started coming in, it was clear that most people just had no idea where to start. Then Timm announced that he would be adapting part of what he would talk about based on the top result. But suddenly the top result became “my leadership will never endorse agile.” And when the poll had ended (or so we thought), the top result switched yet again! Now either Timm planted people to purposely ensure a certain result would be at the top so that he could only make it seem like he would be adapting to the poll, or we were witnessing a truly agile phenomenon and an equally agile Timm.

In the end, we learned that the best way to get started with leading agile in an organization is to just start where you are. There is no magic formula. It helps to do some research on success stories, of course, such as Spotify’s agile “tribe” framework. Timm recommends having a north star to start with. Define the project purpose with your team and have a clear line of sight on your north star. Check out Patagonia’s success story in switching to sustainable cotton back in the 90’s. Consider assigning project roles with clearly defined responsibilities rather than limiting project responsibilities based on job title. Or why not draft up a project constitution so everyone is clear on expectations of each other? This can be tailored between specific individuals too. Finally…just try different approaches out (if you are in a position to do so). And don’t be afraid to fail.

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki