Posted By: Cheryl Rodgers

Many software projects now use Agile methodology. It is a highly collaborative; customer focused approach that brings tangible deliverables – working software - early in the project and continues delivering working software throughout. It is also very flexible and able to adapt to changing needs. This is a marked change from a traditional approach with early deliverables being solely documentation such as project plans and requirements listings. In a traditional approach such as waterfall project management, the true deliverable – working software – is not realized until the end of the project or close to it.

Process Improvement projects benefit from Agile thinking because the expectations business leaders have for them are more demanding now than before. Business leaders want to see tangible benefits early in a project, not just at or near the end. Business needs are constantly changing as their competitive and regulatory environments change. This requires more flexibility to adapt to those changes mid-project without setting the improvement effort back weeks or even months. Team member buy-in for changes driven by process improvement efforts remains one of the most challenging parts of successful projects, and the highly collaborative nature of Agile methodology builds support for buy-in into the effort from the very start.

The Agile approach does require some rethinking to be most successful in process improvement. In the Agile Manifesto1, how does "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools" fit when so much of process improvement success relies on using the right tools to lead to discoveries about the process and a process improvement methodology or process provides the pathway to help teams avoid losing their way or allowing scope creep to bury their efforts? In the next several blogs, we will explore the use of Agile thinking in successful process improvement.

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