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Key agile project management principles every PM should know

By: Emily Finlay

Agile project management focuses on adding flexibility to your work. When using this method, however, it’s important to stick to the fundamental agile project management principles involved in this process.

The 12 principles of agile management were developed to offer guidelines for your use of this process. Following these basic principles ensures the success and speed of the projects you     manage. With these principles and the steps we’ve outlined below, you can execute projects well and deliver exceptional results to clients.


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What are the 12 agile project management principles?

The 12 principles of agile project management are values that help you successfully follow the agile methodology. They both define and guide the processes you use to manage projects, keeping your work flexible and nimble.

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable services/products.

This first agile project management principle references the most important part of managing an agile project: working in multiple iterations. By breaking the work into small deliverables that clients receive throughout the process, you can guarantee their satisfaction. These frequent and consistent deliverables are essential to your agile processes.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

With most projects, the client has an idea of what they want, but may not be able to give specifics until they see the product. This agile project management principle uses this fact to your advantage. Welcoming any feedback given on each deliverable improves the final product. The client can pinpoint changes that strengthen the functionality and power of their product without disrupting the process. Plus, making changes as you go limits complications and saves time for your team.

3. Deliver working services/products frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for shorter timescales.

Finishing on time is a significant challenge for most projects. In fact, 48% of projects go over their scheduled time. Many inevitably blame this failure on the project manager and their inability to maintain good work.

Agile management negates this problem by limiting the time you can spend on each piece of the product. When time is short, teams have shorter planning processes and concentrate instead on the deliverable itself. Each iteration becomes more streamlined and brings the best out of your team.

4. Business people and developers (team members) must work together daily throughout the project.

Communication and collaboration make every team more effective. Keep everyone involved in the project, including the client and workers, aware of everything that’s happening. An easy way to do this is to hold a short daily meeting or send a recap email every evening.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

As an agile manager, your job is to choose the right people, give them the resources they need, and facilitate productive collaboration. Let your team have the space they need to perform at their best. Unless they ask for input, save your thoughts for the feedback round. Micromanaging will only limit motivation and productivity.

6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

When these agile project management principles were developed in 2001, emails and phone calls were the only methods of remote communication. Today, especially mid-pandemic, video conferencing offers a great substitute for face-to-face communication. The main thing to focus on with this principle is quality, direct conversation. As long as your communication is progressing and not delaying your work, you are good to go.

7. Working services/products is the primary measure of progress.

Creating products for clients isn’t about checking boxes. It’s about providing value to the businesses you’re working with. Agile projects focus on the quality of the work you’re doing with every deliverable to ensure incredible results.

8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Your project iterations should use consistent processes and be similar in length. For a truly agile project, your team should complete the work in each sprint within your set guidelines. If you are working overtime or finishing early, reevaluate the way you’ve divided your project and the processes used in your iterations.

9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

A high-quality product doesn’t include shortcuts, poor design, or lazy work. Quality should be a top priority throughout the entire project, from planning to the end result. When this drive for excellence is built into the foundation of everything you do, meeting high standards — and developing products that do the same — will be second nature.  

10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

Staying agile means streamlining everything, from the processes you use to the amount of work you do. If your team uses any procedures that don’t result in something valuable to the client, they have to go. Remember, the agile methodology focuses on speeding up your work and making it more efficient. You aren’t meant to sacrifice quality for speed or simplicity, but they should go hand-in-hand. Don’t waste time or effort making things more complicated than they need to be.

11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

As we mentioned earlier, your role as a project manager is to include the best people for the task and let them handle the work required. Empower your team to find the best ways to bring the client value. This may include reorganizing the project or restructuring the team. As long as it doesn’t create unnecessary friction or delays, let your motivated team drive the product and work.

12. The team discusses how to become more effective at regular intervals, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Your iterations can’t end until you’ve gathered a round of feedback from your team and the client. Along with guiding product development, this discussion uncovers problems with your processes. 

Have each team member share any frustrations they experienced over the last sprint. Keep evaluations focused on improving, growing, and advancing your effectiveness. You can develop better solutions for any problems you face, making every iteration stronger than the last.

The agile project management process flow

Implementing these agile project management principles into your project workflows starts with the processes you use.  As you design your sprints, use these steps as the basis for your own agile procedures.

Agile project management steps

1. Conceptualize and initiate

Sit down with the client to discuss the project and the results they expect. Keep this conversation focused on the value this product will offer so you can direct your team more effectively. 

2. Plan

Now that you know what the project will involve, you can strategize the best ways to achieve it. Build your team with workers who are self-motivated, critical thinkers, and equipped with the skills required for this project. 

Once your team is chosen, meet to discuss the requirements and needs presented by the work. Develop a project plan that sets your team up for success. Estimate the budget and timeline. Create your roadmap. This is also when you’ll divide the project into multiple deliverables and estimate their delivery dates. When you have this set, you can then design your iterations and the processes therein.

Most importantly, don’t lead the meeting yourself. After sharing the information from the client, let your team handle the specifics. They know how to achieve these results better than you do, so give them free rein over the planning process.

3. Complete your deliverables

Oversee your team as they work through every sprint, implementing client feedback with every new cycle to ensure satisfaction. The methods you use will vary depending on your industry and needs, but be sure to follow proven agile practices. This will help your team stay organized and on-target. 

4. Release your deliverables

As your team completes each piece of the project, it’s your job to ensure its readiness. Check the product for quality and performance. Run through the client’s requirements to check for any you might have missed. If you’re satisfied that the deliverable provides value to the client, it’s ready for release.

5. Close the project

The project doesn’t end with the product’s delivery. At this point, it’s time to bring the team together one last time for the final round of feedback. Share anything the client has said about the project and the team’s work. Discuss what you learned throughout the project and how you can use it to improve the next one. You can also go over the changes you will be making to your agile processes moving forward.

Most importantly, use this time to highlight the wins you achieved. Recognize team members for their contributions to encourage them to continue providing great work. Using the data you gathered, identify the ways you improved your iterations from the last project. Just be sure to document any new ideas to use for the next project you manage.

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