The perfect project (doesn’t exist)

What is a project and which are the different approaches to manage a project effectively? And what are the main pillars of the Agile Project Management approach? Managing a project using an agile approach requires the adoption of an agile mindset by the whole team. One of the key aspects of the Agile approach is that of servant leadership as a key resource to empower teams.

1 - Project Definition and Life Cycle

“A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” (PMbok)

This is one of the most common definitions to describe projects, which I find a perfect way to understand what a project is. A project is temporary, in the sense that it has a definite beginning and end, and therefore it needs to have a defined scope and definite resources.

It also needs to create value. Not necessarily a commercial value, but also know-how and experience.

The life cycle of a project is normally composed by 5 steps:

  1. Initiating: This is the start of the project, whose goal is to define the project at a broad level. This is when you research whether the project is feasible and if it should be undertaken at all.
  2. Planning: This phase is key to successful project management as it focuses on developing a roadmap for everyone to follow. The first step of this phase is typically setting goals.
  3. Executing: This is the phase where deliverables are developed and completed.
  4. Monitoring & Controlling: This is all about measuring the project progress and performance, as well as ensuring that everything is in line with the project management plan.
  5. Closing: This phase represents the completed project.

In order for a project to be carried out successfully, all the departments need to be involved and aligned, and processes need to be correctly in place in order for the teams to be properly supported.

2 - Possible approaches

Different approaches have been identified by researchers and scholars who have examined and defined the discipline of project management. So, based on the approach, a project can be defined as:

  • Predictive: This is a traditional approach where the bulk of planning occurs upfront and the execution follows all at once, with one individual delivery at the very end of the workflow. This is the case of traditional real estate projects, for instance.  
  • Iterative: This kind of project includes the collection of feedback when the work is still unfinished, with the aim of improving and readjusting the output. This kind of approach is more typical of interior design.
  • Incremental: If a project is approached by increments, it provides a series finished deliverables half way, which the customer may be able to use immediately. This is the case of the progressive development of a website.
  • Agile: This approach is both iterative and incremental, as it allows to review and readjust the individual items and deliveries regularly.

The Agile approach is relatively new to complex projects. One of its main features is that it provides a quick system of response to changes.

3 - The Agile approach

What is the Agile method?

The actual definition of Agile is found in the Agile Manifesto. The group of experts who synthesized this approach gave a very lean definition, only 68 words, that very simply say that we can work better by valuing the items on the top of the boxes more than the items on the bottom of the boxes.

The Agile Manifesto says:

“We are uncovering better ways to work by doing it and helping others 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
  • Respondingtochange over following a plan”

4 - How to create an Agile environment?

Managing a project using an agile approach requires the adoption of an agile mindset by the whole team. One of the key aspects of the Agile approach is that of “servant leadership” as a key resource to empower teams.

Servant leadership is the idea that the main responsibility of leaders is to serve others. A true servant leader will put other people’s needs first, helping them develop and perform at the best of their abilities.

A servant leader approach will tackle a project based on 3 priorities:

  • Defining the purpose, so the team can engage and unite around the project goal
  • Encouraging the team in order to create an environment where everyone can succeed
  • Not planning to follow the perfect Agile process, but instead look for the results.

The perfect project doesn’t exist. What should exist is perfect results and happy clients. It goes without saying that the real value of projectmanagers in this case is not so much in their position, but rather in their ability to make everyone else perform better. When project managers act as servant leaders, the emphasis shifts from “managing coordination” to “facilitating collaboration”.

5 - What can the Agile approach add to a creative agency?

Agile in marketing is difficult to define, because here the strategy is fluid by design and teams are often working at a high degree of collaboration. Still, the agencies that take an Agile approach, even more those that take a Human approach like The Ad Store - put the customer front and centre of everything they do. This may sound obvious – after all, what kind of marketing activity can ignore customers? Yet, marketing teams sometimes are guilty of operating one step removed, devoting their energy to managing the brand or churning out campaigns to schedule, but losing the focus on the why and whom.The question agile marketers should aspire to answer is how best to engage their customers at every stage of the journey. This isn’t normally a question that marketing teams can answer on their own, so collaboration with other business functions is a cornerstone of any agile marketing approach.

you a new contract, to open new doors or to close them forever. They also offer a great chance for you to test and try new tools, methods, ideas, peoples and/or partners.

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