How Startups Use Hard Stops and Agile Management

How-Startups-Use-Hard-And-Agile-management

An entrepreneur’s job involves managing two very important resources; time and money. They both are hard to get and also enormously difficult to replace. Any business startup faces many challenges and potential failures as they introduce a new service or product model into the market.

These initial failures and mistakes are not final and if well applied makes the company stronger and more competitive. The financial cost of any failure is the most painful, the resources (time and money) that were spent before the recognising that the direction taken is the wrong one.

This is why entrepreneurs are learning to employ the hard stop technique applied in agile project and business management to monitor budget and product development timetables for their companies.

In this article I am covering how startups use hard stops and agile management techniques. The following techniques are effective tools and methods for meeting the need to continuously evaluate the development process of a new business, service or product and to filter what works and what does not.

So what exactly is agile management or agile project management?

To summarise, it is an iterative and incremental method of managing the design and build activities for engineering, information technology, and new product or service development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner, for example “agile software development.”

Agile project management

Agile project management focuses on continuous improvement, scope flexibility, team input, and delivering essential quality products. Agile project management methodologies include a number of terms and activities; “scrum, extreme programming (XP), and lean” among others.

These methodologies all adhere to the Agile Manifesto and the 12 Agile Principles, which focus on people, communications, the product, and flexibility. For a more background and a brief history of agile project management, origins and key players check out this article on TecRepublic.

The delivery time for agile project management is fixed. This is what is known as a sprint. A sprint usually takes duration of 4 to 6 weeks with a shorter time being better. The team working with agile project management must agree and produce a written agreement on the deliverable’s they aim to achieve by the end of the sprint.

For agile project management, time is fixed but what is delivered keeps on changing. The time limit is known as a “hard stop.”

Agile business management

Business owners and smaller company executives can use the Agile method to manage any project or business process. To clarify objectives, fixed time limits must be enforced by business leaders. The team’s energy and priorities’ are better focused by this kind of time constraint.
They understand that there are no extensions and must deliver by the expiry of set time. Though the time is fixed and scope can vary depending on the type of management, the future sprints and scope of work which is progressive and iterative.

The hard stop

Individual team members are evaluated according to their contribution and those deemed to fall short seriously questioned. Firm action should be taken by the leader on the team that failed to meet its deliverable’s.

Any team member or a supplier unable to work with hard stops should be taken off the project. Careful assessments must be done on any projects or objectives that missed their marks before tasking those resources to continue on the same direction.

The delivery demands and rapid pace of an agile team may not be the best fit for the teams or individuals that missed their marks. There is a lot of constant deadline pressure when working with hard or dead stops and a lot of people may not be comfortable. Finding out and maintaining what works and removing projects and team members that don’t work is cost-effective and a powerful way progressing a business fast, by learning from failures whilst eradicating them quickly.

Agile-Project-Management-process

Other things to consider are that the business sense of the projects and the team members may have been amazing at the start but the reality is that the mutual agreement, short term and long term objectives were not met. Extending the time to the same team working on the same objectives (or additional ones) will certainly lead to more costly failures.

Reducing the pain of failure is what the hard stop technique helps to accomplish. Spend more money on the winners and fail quicker at a lower cost in order to find the successful output faster.

Why do some projects succeed while others don’t deliver? Here are five pointers for project success

1) Have a set timeline for the project

project timeline

A start date and end date must be set for every project. The key is to be realistic when setting the timeline. Too little time may lead to frustrations and unmet deadlines. Too much time budgeted for your projects and less will be done than your potential. Begin with asking questions to clarify what needs to be done and the steps towards achieving your goal before setting workable project deadlines.

2) Bring in the whole team

Bring-in-the-Team

To make your project successful, you need people. Make everyone know their importance and what is required from them so that everyone is on the same page to be able to deliver. Explain the big picture to the team members to make them understand how the goal will be achieved and why each person’s input is critical. Ensure that in all your meetings with the members, the next steps to be taken and those responsible for them.

3) Hold meetings on a weekly basis

regular meetings

There has to be accountability in the team by regularly checking their progress. Some tools such as a project tracker come in handy to keep tabs with everyone. It keeps everyone informed on what is being done and the person doing it. If someone is being falling short, it makes it easy for someone else to fill in and offer to help out. It helps the members to go over what’s working and what’s not working during weekly meetings.

4) Main players should be available and accessible

main-players-accessible

To see a project get done, everyone playing a part must be made to be accessible. Start with the leader showing the way. Emails and phone calls should be picked up promptly and responded to without delays. It’s very easy to have something slip through the net or missed by everyone, the way to avoid such cases is to be accessible and respond quickly.

5) Encourage transparency

startups-team-transparency

All the information whether good or bad must be shared to every member of your team to make sure that there is a sense of ownership and nobody feels sidelined. Spare no effort in making sure that all the members take ownership of the project.

Key Points

The goal of agile project management is to deliver fully functional improvements of a product or process constantly – typically every month.

Agile-Project_Management-traditional-vs-atern

The process is best suited for software development and other projects where the requirements keep changing during the course of the project, e.g. startup businesses or rapidly growing businesses or in rapidly changing business environments.

Teams can alter their approach when needed and they are fully self-managed. This flexibility can help to ensure the final product meets the customer’s needs and also saves cost.

Resources

Agile Project Management

Everything you want to know in Agile Project Management, this course will make you Awesome in Agile Project Management

Agile Project Management Overview for Project Managers

Learn to how to blend Agile and traditional project management to create an adaptive approach to project management

Agile Project Management Overview for Executives

Learn how to make an Agile Project Management approach work for your business

AgileExams™

An online test preparation and study tool that provides practice exams to prepare you for PMI®’s Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) Examination and ScrumAlliance®’s Certified ScrumMaster (CSM®) / Certified Scrum Professional (CSP®) Tests . With over 610 Unique Practice Questions for the PMI-ACP® and 350+ Unique Practice Questions for CSM® & CSP®

Agile Project Management For Dummies (Cheat Sheet)

Free online article with tools and tips and methodology on APM.

TOOLS

Mavenlink

Helps manage your business more effectively. With Mavenlink, you can easily manage budgets and project timelines, track time and expenses, collaborate on tasks, allocate resource hours, review workflows, create Gantt charts and utilization reports — all-in-one place.

Podio

All the stuff in your daily work life that you wish could just go somewhere for your team to see, you can put on Podio. We’ll give it structure to help your team work better; less distractions, less confusion – more focus and clarity. Whether you’re completing a design project, or closing a sales lead – getting everything related to the job on one page, instantly makes collaboration easier. Attach files, view the status and add comments – everything’s updated in real time. There’s no cracks for pieces of your projects to fall through here. From simple tables to dynamic card boards, choose the view that best visualizes your work – and create reports that keep you up to date on your progress. Everything can be customized to fit your workflows. Pick and choose the features you need, rename them to suit your team – with Podio, you won’t be held back by restrictive software again.

Podio works seamlessly with many of the most popular file-sharing services, customer support products and marketing tools – to be the platform that ties all your team’s work together. Podio is designed to increase sharing and peer-recognition to foster great team cultures.

Atlassian (JIRA)

JIRA is the tracker for teams planning and building great products. Thousands of teams choose JIRA to capture and organize issues, assign work, and follow team activity. At your desk or on the go with the new mobile interface, JIRA helps your team get the job done. Use JIRA to capture and organize your team’s issues, prioritize and take action on what’s important, and stay up to date with what’s going on around you. JIRA makes all of this easy, so your team can spend less time managing the work and more time building great software.

With JIRA Service Desk, the JIRA platform becomes a modern, flexible service desk experience that streamlines customer requests and boosts your IT team’s efficiency. JIRA Service Desk delivers an intuitive interface, a revolutionary new take on SLAs, customizable team queues, real-time reporting, and more. Improve the productivity of your service desk teams and the happiness of your users!

PivotalTracker

Build quality software faster, more flexible UI, Side-by-side backlogs, Cross-project collaboration. prioritize and break your project down into bite-sized stories. expedite delivery, use points to estimate each story’s relative complexity and prioritize it in the backlog. Acceptance, grab the next story off the top of the list, ask a question or review mockups, then roll up your sleeves and get to work coding.

Planbox

Finally an agile management tool all teams can share, whether Scrum-savvy or not. Planbox bridges the gap between all teams—marketing or IT, agile pros or newbies—by allowing them all to work with a single tool. Map out your entire project inside a box—plan, assign, collaborate, track and deliver. Easy to start. Simple to the final click of the mouse. Got many teams with multiple projects? Planbox’s four-level structure will adapt to all! Cherry-pick your features

Mingle

Use familiar agile practices and Tailor Mingle to fit your team’s practices as you change. Each project and team is different. Top-down standardization creates similar teams but rarely allows them to excel. Mingle allows each team to work in their best, natural style. And it does this without sacrificing visibility at any level.

Mingle’s burnups keep you on track with accurate progress reports and realistic forecasts across any process. And with Mingle Plus, you can track lots of different teams and work styles. Agile teams rally around the card wall. That’s why Mingle’s wall provides an enhanced, always-up-to-date collaboration experience without any of the busy work. Forward thinking features included such as cycle time analytics.

Versionone

VersionOne’s all-in-one agile project management software helps teams easily plan and manage their projects. Today more than 50,000 software teams around the world use the product to scale their Agile initiatives faster, easier, and smarte. VersionOne’s software for managing agile projects organizes essential information in one place. In one convenient project management tool you can manage your backlog, plan and track iterations, generate and display burndown and burnup charts, conduct daily stand-up meetings, and conduct iteration reviews and retrospectives

Targetprocess

Visual Management Software, allows you to plan and track any process, including Scrum, Kanban and your own. See anything you want as a board. Boards are great for planning and progress tracking. Set up lanes, use advanced filters, customize card content. Move cards around with batch drag and drop. Focus, zoom and collapse to see exactly what you need. ee project hierarchy and manage backlogs with ease. Full customization, inline edit and beautiful design. Create lists for anything you need and see data as a hierarchy in depth.

Tinypm

TinyPM is advanced, lightweight and smart tool for agile collaboration including product management, backlog, taskboard, user stories, wiki, integrations and REST API.
tinyPM goes beyond software development and encourages all team members (including clients, management and stakeholders) to actively participate in all your projects.

Axosoft

Effortlessly manage product backlogs, releases & sprints in an easy to use tool for your team. Plan & manage your product backlogs – Quickly add new user stories with the right details, and organize them into projects, releases, and sprints. Define & visualize your process, Adapt Axosoft to your established workflows, and track progress on our versatile Kanban board. Collaborate, measure, ship on time, signature Daily Scrum mode and intelligent burndown charts keep everyone on pace to make the ship date.
Do you think hard stops work for a business and have you used them? What other ways can you use agile methods in a startup?

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