Agile? Or chaos?

Daily scrum updating the sprint plan











Agile is a project management methodology. Really. Agile is not “commit your Web team to whatever work is thrown at them and work late into the night to launch a new digital project based on an arbitrary requested deadline.” Or even better, “commit your team to multiple projects with no tasks, no timelines, no consideration of strategy or resources and launch a site without testing.”

Web development done without a plan or approach is not agile project management, it is no project management and it is an insane approach that will drive your team members crazy and out the door along with your clients.

If this is your approach to building your agency’s business, you will inevitably fail and then you will no longer have the problem of worrying about the difference between agile project management and being “agile.” You will probably do your team a favor and lay them off. Then your staff members can go work for an agency with a Web project manager who understands what agile project management is and they can finally get a life and some sleep.

Those of you who are successful Web agency owners may think that this topic is outdated. Surely no one in the Web design business is still working in the dark ages before project management was introduced.  However, as a Web project management consultant I still meet plenty of Web team leaders who have no understanding of agile project management.  They often brag to me that their teams are “agile,” what they mean is that their teams are not constrained by processes and consistent approaches to Web development work. They might be “flexible” but they are not “agile” and they do not turn out sites that meet their clients’ goals.

No due dates for these managers, their teams are agile. What they mean of course is that their teams are operating in a chaos of no timelines, no stories, no sprints, no status reports, no ScrumMaster. What they mean is that they take on projects and agree to deadlines without bothering to go through a discovery to make sure that the goals of the project will benefit their clients. They throw multiple projects at their staff and tell them to “just get this done.” They decide what the client needs without listening to what the client is telling them. They meet deadlines by having their staff pull all nighters and then praise them for putting in the extra time without thought to the fact that exhausted staff lose their ability for innovation and creativity.

Agile project management is not chaos. Utilizing Wikipedia’s definition agile project management is “an iterative and incremental method of managing the design and build activities for engineering, information technology, and new product or service development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner.” Agile Project Management is a method of managing the design of a Web site. It is not an excuse for building a site by the seat of your pants and thinking launching something by the due date is a way of successfully providing a digital project that meets the business needs of your client or stakeholder.

If you want to be agile,  study agile project management. Otherwise, you aren’t agile, you are just fooling yourself.