I recently enrolled my child in a Montessori school where the emphasis is on independent thinking as well as students' personal accountability for themselves and their environment. To the uninitiated, the classrooms appear chaotic and lacking in structure, though this isn't the case. While some may question its free-for-all approach, the program uses Agile theory to educate and whether you're four or 40, it's an effective, intuitive way to get things done.
As an Agile PM, I often hear that agile practices can't work because of their lack of structure. They're actually very structured and thrive on your responsibility to yourself, your team and the organization at large. The "normal" way of doing things can be a dictated process, with perfect guidelines and unnecessary documentation that can prohibit you and your team's ability to think for yourselves and increase productivity.
Less Structure Doesn't Mean Less Accountability
It's still my job to ensure that the team can do for themselves and complete all tasks on time. But the advantage of working with an Agile group is that the focus is on relationships and the team, not just following the process.
In theory, I'm much like the head of the Montessori school. I protect my team from certain things, clear obstacles and keep them on course, but in general I trust them to be honest, responsible and do what's best for the greater good.
Here are three key guidelines to create an Agile management environment.
Build a Team
It doesn't matter to me what methodology I use, the environment or the location. I want team members to feel empowered, motivated, trusted and free to make decisions and try things out. If the team can move in this direction, they become a motivated team.
Define the Methodology
Is there an Agile method in place in your organization. If not, leverage some good resources (and your knowledge) to define some basics, document the guidelines and structure, communicate the information to the base and beyond. Finally and most importantly, be flexible.
Get Together Every Day
Most Agile methods speak about a daily meeting. Scrum calls it a daily stand-up. Whatever you do, have a daily 15 minute call to get everyone together. It provides opportunity for communication, unity and no excuses for things not getting done. It's a venue for the team to talk to one another and for the PM to listen to the needs and progress of the group. If possible, find a way to get together in the same space so that teams in different locations can gather daily.
Do you have experiences running and Agile project? If so, let me know. I'm curious about what you've encountered out there.