In today’s business world, there is a huge demand for professionals to manage different kinds of projects. These projects range from developing a product to building a website to building an airplane (and everything you can imagine in between).
However, there is a shortage of professional project managers with the experience and skill set to manage these types of projects successfully.
In fact, according to the Project Management and Job Growth and Talent Gap report by the Project Management Institute (PMI), 22 million new project-oriented jobs will be created between 2017 and 2027.
Furthermore, a huge portion of these jobs is focused on agile project management.
Therefore, the demand for project managers that possess the necessary skills for successful project management isn’t going away anytime soon. So, if you want a career that involves leadership, working with people, and coordinating and planning details, then a project management career will likely be a good fit for you.
The other piece of good news? You don’t have to have a Bachelor’s or an MBA to become a successful and professional project manager. In fact, you don’t even have to have any experience!
In this article, we will talk about what exactly agile project management is and what it involves, and how you can become an Agile-certified project manager without any experience.
What is Agile Project Management (APM) and Why Is It So Important Today?
Before we dive into how to become an Agile-certified project manager, let’s first talk about what agile project management is, what it involves, and why it is so important today.
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile project management, also commonly referred to as APM is an iterative approach to planning projects and guiding them through the project lifecycle through single, cyclical development cycles. These smaller iterative cycles are commonly referred to as sprints in the world of project management.
The overarching goals of APM are increased productivity, collaboration, and continuous improvement. The agile project management philosophy is directly linked to project success.
The “Micro-Methodologies” of APM
Despite popular belief, agile itself isn’t really a methodology; rather it is a philosophy.
The agile philosophy is made up of “micro-methodologies”, which include the following:
- Scaled Agile (or also SAFe)
Even though they have different names, and have slightly different flexible approaches, they are still all considered agile. Perhaps more importantly, they all allow project teams to collaborate effectively, increase productivity, and increase creative problem-solving.
Why is Agile Project Management So Important?
Many organizations adopt agile methodologies because they effectively help teams and project leaders solve problems. It also puts emphases on delivering projects in bite-sized batches, which also allows for increased collaboration among project teams and stakeholders. This increased level of collaboration allows for continuous improvement via constant feedback throughout the project rather than waiting for final delivery.
In fact, according to the 2015 Pulse of the Profession® report published by the PMI, 75 percent more organizations that adopt agile methodologies complete more of their projects successfully than the competition.
What is Involved in Agile Project Management or a Sprint?
Most sprints occur within two weeks for teams with approximately seven people. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that sprints only work for small teams. Running sprints can work for larger teams, but more time may be required for each sprint.
For example, rather than the traditional two-week sprint, sprints can also run for three weeks or even 30 days. The beauty with running a sprint is that it can be managed according to a team’s needs.
Why and How Do Sprints Work?
So, what are the benefits of running a sprint or agile project management? In addition to not necessarily needing any experience to run a sprint, here are some other key benefits to APM as a whole:
- APM applies a level of design thinking, which is crucial for solving complex projects
- Sprints are a flexible yet effective approach to starting and managing a project
- APM focuses on team and stakeholder collaboration throughout the project
Upon completion of the “sprint” period (whether that is two weeks or 30 days), each task or iteration that was completed during this time is reviewed by the project team. The project team doesn’t necessarily involve the technicians (or those who actually perform the work); it can also involve anyone within the project team, such as cross-functional teams and departments and other project stakeholders.
This “review period”, typically conducted as a meeting, is known as the sprint retrospective. The goal of this period is to determine what worked, what didn’t, and how the team can learn from the sprint session and what they can do better during the upcoming sprint. The insights gathered and collected after completing each iteration or “sprint” can help determine the next step in the project.
Again, depending on the type of project you are running a sprint on will likely depend on the types of tools that you use to conduct it.
For example, some favorite agile tools used by many project managers to help manage iterations or sprints include the following:
- Regular stand-up meetings to help enhance team collaboration
- Prioritized task backlogs
- A project management tool
- Whiteboards (for brainstorming)
- Visual workflows
- Meeting spaces
- Sticky notes
Many professional and certified ACP project managers play a huge role in enhancing team collaboration, productivity, and also building a sense of community for the project. This type of leadership typically involves providing service and helping others while also sharing power in decision-making processes. Agile project leaders also effectively practice active listening, empathy, and build commitment among project team members.
Above all, a agile project manager likes to ask the question: WHY in order to encourage conversation and collaboration. Continue reading for more on this below.
What Do You Need to Run a Sprint?
No.... not that.
Agile project management only sounds complicated. Many professional project managers are often overwhelmed by it. However, this is because most struggle with wrapping their minds around the philosophy and how APM is really supposed to work.
The good news is that APM and running sprints work best when you are trying to solve a complex problem, or you aren’t sure of where to start. Furthermore, APM doesn’t really require many tools; it just requires a different “prototype” mindset and management approach.
Here is what you actually need to do to run a sprint successfully:
- Assemble the project or sprint team
- Choose a challenge or target
- Map out the problem
- Get the project team to agree on an initial target
- Make sketches and brainstorm possible solutions
- Use voting and appoint on an official “Decider” to help make decisions
- Test your prototype
As far as actual physical tools, all you need is a whiteboard, dry erase markers, a handful of sticky notes, and conference room.
The Power of The Whiteboard
Isn’t a whiteboard an office tool of the past? Yes and no. Yes, whiteboards have been used in classrooms and office spaces for decades—and with good reason. Whiteboards encourage visibility and creative synthesis surrounding a project or a problem. The whiteboard brings these pieces to life that are often hidden in file folders, notebooks, or PowerPoint slides.
6 Tips for Managing Sprints
So, at this point in the article, you may be more intrigued about the world of APM or even about starting your own sprint. Regardless, here are some key tips for managing sprints:
1. Start Slow. When facing a large problem or project, it’s natural to want to tackle it or solve the problem right away. However, this can only lead to “organized chaos”, which isn’t effective nor is it productive. The first step is to slow down and prioritize; otherwise, you could end up wasting time and effort on the wrong part of the problem.
2. Set Goals and Ask WHY. The first step is to have a meeting and discussion with your team about goals. Ask why questions. Why are we doing this project? Why are we having this problem? This sets the stage and helps all team members and stakeholders see value in the project.
From there, you can also set short-term project goals as well as long-term organizational goals. This discussion can take 30 seconds or 30 minutes.
For example, at the end of your sprint, your team should have a clearer vision of how the project or solution might benefit the organization as a whole moving forward. All in all, it’s best to devote the time needed to do some firm goal-setting.
3. Map Out Your Week. When teams and businesses are trying to solve large-scale problems, some may map out a complete five-day work week just to run a sprint. Although this isn’t a required approach to managing a sprint, nor do some small businesses have the bandwidth to do this, it is a fairly popular option.
Use your whiteboard to build a map, outlining key challenges, identifying what’s most important, and draw a map to reach a solution. The overarching goal here is to take responses, assumptions, and answers to the WHY questions and draw a simplified map.
4. Take Notes. During the initial meetings and goal-setting, each team member should take notes. For face-to-face meetings, it can be helpful to have stacks of sticky notes availble for team member use. Team members can write down notes, pointers, ideas or questions to ask or share with the group.
5. Avoid Distractions. After a long day of “sprinting”, team members can become easily distracted. Be sure to build breaks into your sprint meeting schedule. You can also institute a “no device” rule, which dictates that phones, tablets, and laptops are not permitted during brainstorming meetings.
6. Document Your Process. You will likely have to spend some time experimenting with the format of your meetings. Once you discover what works best for your team, and what is most productive, then document it. Documenting the process will formalize it, making it a reference point for team members and even training new team members.
What is the ACP Agile Management Certification?
As you can clearly see from above, running a sprint, which is a family member of APM, doesn’t require a ton of experience; just a project team, a few tools, and a little time.
Pretty straightforward? You bet, but it would be untruthful to say that running and managing every sprint is easy. Depending on the type of project and industry, some sprints may be more complex than others.
So, now that you have a better understanding of APM, how to manage sprints in an agile project, what’s next? If you are interested in a project management career, and you think APM is the best fit for you, then you can begin your career by becoming ACP Agile Management certified.
The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® is designed to help both aspiring and experienced project managers to learn about agile principles, key knowledge areas, and techniques, which include the following:
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Test-driven Development (TDD)
Due to the high demand for agile project managers, the PMI-ACP® is becoming an incredibly popular certification program.
How Can the ACP Agile Management Course Help Me?
In addition to offering various resources and exam prep courses for the PMP Certification exam, Project Vanguards also offers an ACP Agile Management exam preparation course. This course covers all the key knowledge areas and techniques that will be on the ACP certification exam. The course also covers various agile approaches and methodologies, and how to apply them in real-world projects.
So, regardless of whether you have decades of project management experience or no experience at all, you will get something out of this course.
How to Earn Your ACP Agile Management Certification
Earning your ACP Certification just might be the best thing you do for your project management career. Not only will you learn something new that you can apply to managing every-day projects, you will also gain a competitive edge over your peers and other candidates and increase your earning potential.
All in all, APM isn’t going away anytime soon. Organizations and companies throughout every industry have seen the organizational as well as financial benefits of adopting and implementing the agile project management philosophy.
So, if you are thinking about a career in project management, or how to accelerate your current project management career, earning your official ACP certification is a great place to start and secure your project management career.