How Does a PM Transition from Waterfall to Agile? - Zuggand

February 24, 2020

How Does a Project Manager Successfully Transition from Waterfall to Agile?


Many times we fall into comfortable habits and the Waterfall methodology is a Project Manager’s security blanket.  Waterfall gives us a defined plan of action, gather requirements, development, implementation, work out the remaining details, testing, etc…..control, yes!  On the opposite end, Agile can be our worst nightmare with backlogs, changing requirements, no fixed budget, no change requests, no defined timeline……chaos, yikes!  

The question I keep hearing is, “Waterfall has been a proven delivery system so why switch now?”  While Waterfall works well for straight-forward projects, it doesn’t always fit when building complex digital products that contain many unknowns.  

As the industry has transformed, so have customer expectations.  Everything has been shifting towards smarter, more robust products, and quicker market delivery since the late ‘90s.  As project management migrates towards Agile and Scrum, take action now to ensure you don’t get left behind.  

Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile doesn’t have to be a monumental change.  Project Manager’s already have the necessary skills to drive an Agile project; all you need is to gain an understanding of the methodology.  Start by researching on the internet, reading books, take online courses and talk with other PMs already involved in the process.  

Now you may be thinking, the Agile concept sounds great, but what is the best way to transition both the team and the clients?  

  • Start by training the team to change their thought process.  Team members need to understand their roles while ensuring their expectations match Agile values.  Change their mindset of using legacy approaches or it will be the death of the agile transition.
  • Rigid processes can stifle a team’s creativity, so stay flexible and be a little patient, it really won’t hurt.  
  • Leveraging existing automation processes and tools will significantly help reduce the time to project completion.  Automation generates consistent workflows and brings transparency to the project eliminating most of the redundant efforts while emphasizing gaps.  
  • Communication and collaboration are critical for a successful Agile process.  Daily team meetings to review progress and next steps are essential.  Your stakeholders are just as important as the team and should be included in the process.  Establishing a clear line of knowledge sharing will ensure that the teams stay on top of any changes throughout the lifecycle.
  • Don’t lose sight of the end goal, your product.  Distraction is something we are all guilty of, competing projects, day-to-day keep the lights on tasks, etc.  While being sympathetic to the team’s daily deliverables, your job is to keep them on track.  The transition to Agile requires organized discipline.

To be successful in the transition, the Project Manager needs to become the champion and assume the Scrum Master role while facilitating the team’s adoption.  Take the plunge and embrace the journey by adapting and transitioning your skills.  Always remember to enjoy the ride because a happy team leads to a happy client resulting in an ecstatic PM.

Aaron Sandeen

Contact Info
Chandler, AZ
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