Agile project management: an easy guide to the Agile mindset

Agile is a methodology that promotes adaptive planning, iterative delivery, and continuous improvement. Here's what you need to know.

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If you're a project management professional looking to stay ahead of the curve, having a solid understanding of agile project management is essential. The agile approach has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it offers many benefits.

While many project managers are familiar with the term agile project management, what does it really mean?

Before we get into the specifics of the process, it’s important to note that, at its core, agile refers to a mindset. It is an attitude and set of principles that emphasize adaptability, collaboration, continuous learning, and rapid delivery within project teams. Agile project managers should embrace this mindset by using team-oriented approaches, such as pair programming and frequent communication with stakeholders.

By adopting an agile mindset and following certain principles, teams can quickly adapt to customer feedback and changing market conditions while delivering valuable results faster.

Read on to explore what agile project management is and why it's so important for project managers who want to stay competitive.

What is agile project management?

Agile project management is a methodology that promotes adaptive planning, iterative delivery, and continuous improvement. With agile, project teams deliver working products incrementally through frequent collaboration and feedback loops between teams, customers, and other stakeholders.

When I was first getting formally educated on the agile mindset and practices, I adopted a purist lens. This argues that there is actually no such thing as agile project management because the agile methodologies are for continuous, iterative work—not intended for a project with a specific beginning, middle, and end.

While this is correct in the purist view, the reality is that projects can always be managed in an agile way, meaning that the project manager and project team involved have adopted an agile mindset to guide their project delivery.

Agile principles

The agile manifesto by the agile alliance is considered the start of the agile terminology we know today. It defines four values that comprise this mindset:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
overview of the agile manifesto for agile project management

Ultimately, agile project management encourages teams to be flexible in their approach so that objectives can be accomplished in a fast-paced environment while also creating an atmosphere of transparency and trust.

A brief overview of popular agile methodologies

Agile project management includes several different methodologies for project planning and execution. Here are three examples of popular agile methods:


The scrum methodology is an agile project management framework used to optimize the development of complex products. It applies many principles and practices to facilitate collaboration between teams, promote adaptability and responsiveness, and deliver maximum value with minimal risk. If you’re in a team or working on a project that involves sprints, it is likely there is at least a little of the scrum methodology mixed into your workflow.

At its core, scrum focuses on breaking down projects into manageable tasks that can be completed at predicted intervals. This enables teams to respond to changing customer requirements and make corrections, while minimizing costly rework.

➡️ Learn more: check out the key differences between scrum and waterfall

Scrum provides many advantages for an agile project manager, including:

  • Increased transparency amongst teams
  • Improved communication between stakeholders
  • More accurate progress tracking through sprints
  • Better collaboration between team members
  • Greater adaptability when responding to external factors

There are several scrum ceremonies that improve collaboration (e.g. daily scrums, sprint demos) and each of them can be adapted to other methodologies, too.


Kanban is an agile methodology used to manage the development or ongoing operations of products and services. It is based on the idea of visualizing a workflow using cards, sign boards, and columns that allow stakeholders to track progress and identify areas for improvement. The process is designed to optimize efficiency and encourage collaboration between teams.

Kanban provides many benefits, including:

  • Improved visibility into project status
  • Increased agility when responding to customer feedback or changes in requirements
  • Better collaboration between teams
  • Reduced waste due to focus on continuous improvement

Extreme programming (XP)

Extreme programming (XP) is an agile software development methodology that focuses on improving the code quality and reducing time to market. It emphasizes communication, collaboration, and continuous improvement between teams to create better products faster. The process relies on five core principles: communication, feedback, simplicity, courage, and respect.

Extreme programming provides many advantages, including:

  • Increased communication between team members
  • Greater agility when responding to customer requests
  • Simplified testing processes through TDD (test-driven development)
  • Shorter time to market due to focus on collaboration and iterative, incremental delivery


Did you know?

As agile continues to gain ground in different companies, so does the role of the agile coach—a person who helps companies set and improve agile practices, as well as agile transformation initiatives.


Agile vs. waterfall: A comparison of approaches

Waterfall and agile project management are two of the most widely used methods for organizing and executing projects (especially software development). Waterfall provides a linear approach with clear goals, whereas the agile methodology offers a more flexible solution with quicker cycles that allow for changeability.

The main difference between them is how they approach a project. The waterfall method is a traditional project management form that involves breaking down tasks into separate, distinct phases where each phase must be completed before moving on to the next phase.

On the other hand, agile project management involves taking a much more flexible approach with shorter cycles consisting of iterative development. Feedback from stakeholders is incorporated early in the process.

➡️ Check out the 10 key differences between agile and waterfall.

While both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages depending upon individual requirements, it is crucial to understand which type best fits your organization’s needs before beginning any project.

If you don’t know exactly what you’re building but need to get started now, agile is probably the way to go. Unlike traditional project management, agile workflows allow for short iterations, fast feedback, and pivots on a dime as you figure out exactly what you’re building, how it should work, and what else you need to be successful.

What Are The Benefits of Agile Project Management?

The advantages of leveraging an agile project management methodology such as Scrum or Kanban in executing a project include:

  • Increased flexibility and responsiveness to changing conditions
  • Improved collaboration between team members and stakeholders
  • Accelerated delivery times due to shorter feedback loops
  • Improved quality of output due to more frequent integration and testing cycles
  • Better risk management due to more visible progress and priorities
  • Increased efficiency in task execution due to shorter planning cycles
  • Closer correlation between customer needs and outputs, as well as cost savings due to faster time-to-market

Generally speaking, this methodology provides organizations greater agility and a framework to quickly adjust their plans as needed to deliver results. I always advocate for an agile mindset when going into a project, even if using a predictive or waterfall methodology.


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Challenges to managing projects with the agile method

Some of the challenges you may encounter when managing a project with an agile methodology include:

  • Ensuring all team members have a solid understanding and commitment to the process
  • Overcoming cultural resistance to change
  • Dealing with stakeholders who may not fully understand or support the process, and
  • Tracking progress in an efficient manner (e.g. using agile velocity properly)

I’ve found understanding and commitment to the process to be the biggest challenge to working in an agile methodology. Every single person needs to be dedicated to operating under the chosen methodology. This requires a notable amount of upfront training, team collaboration, and (sometimes difficult) conversations about accountability and agile team operations.

Additionally, agile teams must maintain consistent communication with customers and other stakeholders to evaluate feedback properly and adjust their plans accordingly.

Agile practices and processes require teams to be disciplined in their approach to achieve objectives on time. In essence, if everyone hasn’t bought into the agile methodology used in the project, it can become very complex and unwieldy to manage.

I suggest taking time at the start to build foundational knowledge in the chosen methodology across all roles in the project, including executive stakeholders.

Deciding to leverage an agile methodology

Agile project management is a great choice for organizations that need the flexibility to react quickly to changes during the development process.

Through shorter cycle times and continuous improvement with feedback from stakeholders, agile projects are well-equipped to respond rapidly in an ever-changing technological landscape.

The ability of agile project management to adjust easily also ensures that organizations can make well-informed decisions throughout the project life cycle. Thus, agile project management methods are an excellent choice for projects requiring constant innovation and adaptation.



Agile project management is a great choice for organizations that need the flexibility to react quickly to changes during the development process.



When deciding whether to use an agile, adaptive, or waterfall predictive methodology, project managers should consider the complexity and nature of their projects. For example, agile is best suited for complex projects that require frequent changes and customer feedback. On the other hand, if your project goals are more straightforward or require delivery or finishing all at once, a waterfall predictive approach may be better since it offers rigid planning and defined deliverables.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on the type of project being worked on, timing needs, and any budget constraints.

For example, imagine you have a project that involves building a software system for an e-commerce platform. If the customer requests updates or improvements every few weeks, an agile methodology would be ideal for managing the development process. It allows teams to make changes and maintain flexibility as requirements evolve. Its iterative nature enables developers and product owners to quickly identify problems and build prototypes as they progress.

➡️ Of course, we shouldn't underestimate the power of an effective retrospective at the end of each iteration. Learn more about how to run better agile retrospectives.

Getting started: How to implement an agile process

Getting started with agile project management doesn't have to be daunting. The key to success is understanding the agile principles and how they apply to your specific project and environment.

Here are some steps to get you started on your journey into agile project management:

  1. Understand the basics. Learn about the core principles associated with working in agile environments such as iterative development, customer collaboration, and continuous improvement. Familiarizing yourself with these concepts will help you understand how they need to be applied to your own project.
  2. Build a team. A successful project requires the right combination of skill sets and personalities working together as one. Make sure everyone involved in the project is committed to working with an agile framework, understands their roles and responsibilities, and is given the necessary tools for success.
  3. Plan accordingly. Agile works best when there is a plan in place. Assess all elements of your project carefully beforehand (scope, budget, timeline, etc.) so that all stakeholders can better understand what needs to be achieved throughout each phase of development. It's also important to take a deliberate approach to planning capacity for your agile projects before you start the sprints.
  4. Set up communication channels. Communication is key, so setting up channels with daily stand-ups and weekly team meetings where any issues can be discussed and resolved quickly helps keep everyone accountable and on track.
  5. Focus on quality. Remember that quality should always come first for a successful delivery at the end of each iteration or cycle, so make sure that teams have adequate time for testing before moving on to other tasks too quickly.

By following these steps, you can master the art of agile project management and become a valuable asset for any organization looking for quick solutions in today's ever-changing digital age.