Agile, the Agile Manifesto, and the principles of agile are nothing new. Agile and its underlying fundamentals have been in-action for close to 20 years. However, like any business and operation system of communicating, thinking, creating, and succeeding – there is still lots of room for learning, application, and growth.

Initially the domain of software development companies, the agile management system is now making steady in-roads into every industry. From construction, finance, consulting, marketing, retail, health, etc. – we’re seeing flickers of agile adoption and understanding. The reason we’re really only seeing flickers and not large-scale adoption is in the status quo that puts up barriers to change and transition.

This is the challenge that modern project portfolio management needs to meet head-on. To succeed with project portfolio management, the entire organization needs to embrace the principles that are guiding how project managers and product owners are leading their teams, defining deliverables, identifying problems, and allocating resources.

Agile project portfolio management can only come to lasting fruition if-and-when, the entire company is agile. This does not happen overnight but it cannot take months and months of transition time – the key for project managers, upper management, and product owners is to lay the foundation that supports a smooth and flexible agile transition. This, can be easier to whiteboard than it is to put into practice.

You’re up against the naysayers, the change resistant, and the fearful. The good news for you is that your organization is not unique in these challenges  – in other words – if other companies can do it – so can you.

The Agile Manifesto In Practice

While it’s not necessary to be a slave to the Agile Manifesto, it’s important for the entire company to understand how these principles apply to each unique role, department, team, and the company-wide goals.

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others to do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

At an organizational level, the interpretation and practice of these values is key in achieving success. Look at each value and see how the entire organization can modify the way it responds to challenges, becomes more flexible, works with internal and external customers, and the priority on individual and team success.

There are no hard-and-fast rules or must do’s – there is only the organization-wide commitment to be flexible, collaborative, communicative, and focused. When this clicks, putting this into practice beyond your project portfolio management role becomes much more doable and practical.

Being an Agile Organization

Now, you’ve done the heavy-lifting and have sold the principles of agile to your entire organization. You’ve arranged for agile training, hired an agile coach, are looking for experienced agile mentors – you’re all ready to go.

But now, how do you actually put agile into action – within both your own project portfolio management role and in the organization as a whole? Yes, this is a big ask, but as we highlighted above, your organization is not so unique that it cannot make agile work.

Not all of these suggestions are going work, but as in all-things agile, take what works, bend it to your organization’s needs, try it out, refine it, and keep moving forward.

  • Simple please. Don’t overburden your colleagues with documentation, recommendations, reading material, webinars, etc. Provide the basic information, be ready to answer questions, and have the easy ability to demonstrate how you’re using agile to manage your multiple projects.
  • Highlight the benefits. Too often, people get caught up in the problems and blockers – by putting an emphasis on the good that comes out of an agile organization, it’s easier to get everyone invested.
  • Resources matter. Remind upper management that there are costs associated with this transition. Don’t leave anything to surprise – you need new agile management software, updated project portfolio management tools, coaching, one or more scrum masters, etc. You can’t drive a car without gas and you can’t make agile work without the right resources.
  • Team structure. A lot of the success in agile comes with having effective teams. Dedicate time to assessing every single team in the organization, figure out what does and doesn’t work, talk to key team members, review team successes and failures – then use this information to build agile teams that can be collaborative, flexible, communicative, and goal-oriented.
  • See the big picture. The key to success in project portfolio management is in being able to see the big picture. This includes the resource demands, projected returns, potential barriers to success, key performers, cost overruns, etc. – make this standard practice through-out the organization. For the organization goals to be realized, each piece of the organization must see their slice of the big picture and how it fits together.

You know the success that comes with agile and want to see this for your entire organization. Don’t overlook the hard work you did to put agile into your project portfolio management system – it didn’t happen easily and there likely are still adjustments to be made.

Being an agile organization is a constant – and the cross-functional organizations that can remain open to change and flexibility – can and will succeed.