Agile Project Thinking

The steps here will help you learn, understand and practice efficient work development methods and mindsets.

By going through all of them, you’ll get additional tools in your toolkit to pick from and use to better understand how to work more efficiently and how to manage our work to get things done faster.

If you need any clarification or help as you go through the resources here, feel free to reply to this topic using the Reply button at the bottom of this topic.

To start, let us understand what makes up Agile Project Thinking. It is a combination of Agile Methodologies and Project Thinking. It is not a method in itself, instead, it is a philosophy towards development activities that employ different methods to carry activities out.

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Agile Methodologies

They were born from ‘The Manifesto for Agile Software development’ which was published in the year 2001, by a group of software developers.

Key details of the manifesto include:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

These values imply that in agile, even though there is value in the items on the right, the ones on the left are valued more.

When applying Agile methodologies, 3 practices to focus on and practice are:

  • Iterative and incremental development
  • Team work
  • Effective communication
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Project Thinking

It is a set of steps and processes that we can apply to make our tasks faster and ensure a higher level of success. Think of it as a methodology that lets you project-manage yourself.

:bulb: Take note of the Do This Now sections as you go through this guide. They will have a checkbox next to them to let you know you need to work on them. No need to click on the checkbox, it is just to indicate a task. They help build your knowledge by allowing you learn by doing.

How Do You Project Manage Yourself?

To help you understand this, let us break down the concept into steps:

  1. You scope the work to be done (Scope Project)
  2. You break the work into parts that show a certain level of completion (Create Milestones)
  3. You define Tasks to be done to complete these parts (Task Backlog Breakdown and Requirements Gathering)
    • You also define the Needed Requirements to complete the Tasks
  4. You prioritize the tasks to be done (Prioritize Tasks)
  5. You schedule and batch the tasks to allow easier execution (Create Sprints)

In this guide/context, everyday work will be referred to as Work Packages, where each work or large task you are given to do can be seen as a package of work.

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Scoping the work

To scope the work to be done or Work Package is to understand what the work is about.

To do this, you need to ask questions like, what am I to do? What is expected to be created and delivered once the work is completed?

These steps helps you understand the work package and makes it easier to execute them.

Do This Now

To scope your Work Package, answer this:

What is to be created and delivered by completing this work?

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Creating Milestones

When work packages are broken into smaller and easier to execute steps, plans or parts, this is called creating milestones.

Milestones are a clear sequence of events or parts that build up or make up a whole project or work.

Do This Now

To define your Milestones, answer this:

What are the parts of the Work Package (project) or activities that will be built to make it complete?

  • List them in the order of which will be done first.

After breaking the work package into smaller tasks, discuss the these smaller parts, the milestone with the individuals who have a say in how the Work Package (project) goes. These individuals are your stakeholders and they include:

  • The individuals who either pay for the Work Package (project) or make major decisions on it.
    • They can be your Partners, co-founders, colleagues, managers or your board of directors. Basically the people who call the shots in the project.

Task Backlog: Defining Tasks

To define tasks that need to be done to achieve each Milestone, you would be asking yourself “What are the list of things I will need to do to achieve this milestone or this part of the work?”.

Knowing this makes it easier to achieve the milestones.

Do This Now

Tasks can be defined by answering:

What is the next level down to be implemented to achieve this Milestone?

And / Or

What are the list of things I will need to do to achieve each Milestone?

These tasks should be doable and manageable as single items.

Defining the Task Requirements

Task requirements are the items needed to complete the tasks. They vary from documents on the Work Package to the specific skills needed to do the tasks.

Knowing the requirements before hand reduces delays later on when work has started.

Do This Now

To know the requirements, answer this question:

What will I require to complete the task?

And / Or

What are the resources/items needed to complete the task?

Prioritize Tasks

Task prioritization helps you know which task to work on first.

They are prioritized under each Milestone by rearranging them using the order of dependency.

Order of dependency here means which tasks must be completed first. Which tasks must be completed before others can be worked on.

Do This Now

To do this, answer this question:

Which tasks must I complete first before I can work on others?

Sprint Planning: Scheduling & Batching Tasks

Scheduling and batching makes it easier to do the tasks one at a time, which increases focus and productivity.

This is done by taking prioritized task packages and arranging them into batches that can be completed on a weekly basis. It is at this point you assign the tasks to the team or individual working on it.

Do This Now

You schedule and batch by:

Assigning each task package a Completion Time
Defining the total time available for this project, weekly (Weekly Work Time)
Group the task packages (from the most urgent) into Weekly Task Packages using their Completion Time to define which ones can be in each week.

After batching all the prioritized Task Packages, they will be arranged in a Work Breakdown Tree, to allow a bird’s eye view of the whole project:

  • Project
    • Milestone 1
      • Week 1 Packages
        • Task 1
        • Task 2
      • Week 2 Packages
        • Add tasks
    • Milestone 2
      • Week 3 Packages
        • Task 1
        • Task 2
        • Task 3
      • Week 4 Packages
        • Add tasks
    • Add more Milestones

The Work Breakdown Tree can also be represented using a tree diagram:

Week Retrospective/Review and Planning

At the end of each week, it is imperative to do a retrospection and also plan for the new week. To do this, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What was I able to finish for this week (that is what are your Completed Task Packages)?
  2. What is getting in my way of completing my Weekly Task Packages (that is what are your Blockers)?
  3. What can I do to resolve the Blockers?
  4. What will I be working on for the next week (that is what are your Task Packages for next week)?

Doing a weekly review and planning will help you learn from the things you have worked on, help you figure out how to improve your efforts the next week. It also:

  • lets your subconscious mind start to work on the task, thereby making it easier to do,
  • serves as a motivation booster and reduces procrastination,
  • helps you go about the week active instead of reactive.

As a tip, so you don’t burn out, after each week’s work, always take some time off where you are not working on any of those tasks. This will help you refresh and prepare for the next week tasks, and prevent negative diminishing returns.

Congratulations, now you are equipped with all the tools needed for the Business Thinking Process.

:tada: :partying_face: :confetti_ball: