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Agile Decision-Making Overview & Benefits

Agile Decision Making Overview Benefits 2, Project Management Blog
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Agile decision-making is a key concept and a set of principles and practices for managing and delivering projects, especially in software development. It is flexible, collaborative, and iterative problem-solving practices to adapt to changing circumstances and deliver value to customers efficiently.

Technology and Tools have made gathering data and churning numbers a lot easier. The common belief is more the data, the better and faster is the decision making. Agree? To some extent, yes!

If you take a look around the sources of records within an enterprise you will find a lot of them, some connected, some in silos and some no one even cares about.

Sure, big data analytics and machine learning have come to our rescue to make sense of these disjointed data sets but how efficiently is the final output used. Answers are often soft murmurs and far less definitive.

Where lies the problem?

What does it take to make effective and impactful decision making?

How can we make it a practice and course-correct with agility?

The matter at hand is about having the flexibility to make decisions quickly and be able to improvise those decisions in an iterative manner.

Today’s business scenario is all about being “agile”. Be it agile project management or agile decision making.

Business owners and decision-makers no longer prefer a big-bang approach.

 It is neither sustainable nor business-friendly. In fact, it can be highly detrimental to the business itself, given the rapid technological advances allowing competitors to catch up quickly.

Hence everyone is always on their feet to take the plunge into the next big venture – product, service offering, pricing models, new markets, or organizational changes.

Agile Decision Making Framework, Project Management Blog

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Contents

How Agile Decision Making Impacts Project Success?

  • Early Risk Identification and Mitigation: Agile decision making encourages proactive risk management. Teams are empowered to identify potential risks early on and make informed decisions to address them.
  • Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: This customer-centric approach ensures that the project aligns with customer needs and expectations, leading to higher levels of satisfaction and a product that resonates with the target audience.
  • Improved Project Transparency: It promotes transparency throughout the project lifecycle. Regular communication, frequent updates, and collaborative decision-making processes ensure that all stakeholders are well-informed about the project’s progress and direction.
  • Optimized Resource Utilization: It allows teams to allocate resources more effectively. By prioritizing tasks based on changing project needs, teams can optimize resource allocation and prevent bottlenecks, ensuring that resources are used where they’re most impactful.
  • Increased Accountability: When decisions are made collectively and collaboratively, team members are more invested in their execution, leading to a heightened sense of accountability and responsibility.
  • Empowered Teams: They have the autonomy to make decisions that directly impact their tasks, which fosters a sense of pride, boosts morale, and often leads to more innovative solutions.
  • Efficient Change Management: When new information or requirements arise, teams can swiftly adjust their course of action, minimizing resistance and friction during the change process.
  • Continuous Alignment with Business Goals: Teams regularly assess progress, enabling them to make course corrections to maintain focus on what matters most to the organization.
  • Encourages Experimentation and Innovation: Teams are encouraged to try out new ideas and approaches, fostering a culture of creativity that can lead to breakthrough solutions.
  • Increased Project Predictability: Teams are better equipped to anticipate challenges, respond to deviations, and steer the project toward successful outcomes.

How do you think one can follow agile decision-making?

The first steps must include taking an objective view of the facts at hand. Analyze it to see specific trends and their coincidence with associated market changes, demand surge, or regulatory changes if applicable.

More importantly, as to how soon can you go to market, or how soon can you start seeing benefits.

Basically, testing the waters before committing significant resources or budget.

And for this, you have to follow an iterative approach. Take a decision on making the smallest changes to see their impact and assess if the realized impacts will scale if implemented across the board.

Assessing the impact

The agile mindset calls for a consistent stream of feedback and performance (impact, results & outcomes) review.

If you are a Product Owner, you do realize the importance of the Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospectives.

They are excellent tools to collect feedback – Before and after!

Sprint Reviews are about

  • Showcasing the work that is done
  • Is it acceptable
  • What revisions are needed
  • Is the work done in accordance with the original commitment

Now apply this approach to your agile-decision making process.

You know

  • what is the decision you have made
  • does it apply/fit the case at hand
  • is it in sync with the objective that warranted the decision in the first place
  • does it need review

If you notice, extensive collaboration across the board is the central theme here. It isn’t and should not be an executive decision.

 The idea is to have the right stakeholder participation and through the review of the path and its alignment with the chosen objectives.

Similarly, Sprint retrospectives are about the “after the fact” scenario where you

  • analyze the outcomes
  • outcomes vs. commitment or intended/promised objectives
  • how far was the gap
  • what did not work & why
  • what are the required corrective measures

The best part is you gain clarity from the practical challenges ranging from execution, time, efforts, and muscle required to sail through.

If applied consistently, the above approaches will save you from burning your hands far too many times.

Transparent Feedback

Another important aspect of agile decision-making is about receiving feedback. Leaders that prefer an iron fist may not like it and even feel threatened. Some may say we are running a company and not a democracy.

A result, innovation is stifled, data get massaged and there is a lot of masking of the hard facts. All of which lead to erroneous decisions.

Nokia & Blackberry are classic examples! Remember them?

Encourage open discussions and active participation to expand your data source. Collective feedback will enable a great What-If analysis as well.

The more feedback, the better. And the reasons are very simple.

  • Stakeholders get to put their skin in the game.
  • Increases participation
  • Helps align your people towards a common objective
  • Results in robust decision making

Unhindered feedback leads to facts closest to the truth and helps us identify the blind spots which can often be missed and prove counterproductive to the whole initiative in question.

Enable Collaboration

We all have heard and benefited from acts of collaboration.

In fact, collaboration plays a significant role in all walks of our lives. It is all about the compounded impact and value delivered.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

Given the rise of agile project management software, collaboration has become an intrinsic part of how we operate.

The most trusted benefits in a collaborative workplace are

  • Greater alignment of strategy with execution
  • Clutter-free execution
  • Desk free work management
  • Well placed to handle crisis situations
  • Focus is on the core objective
  • All move ahead in the same direction
  • Ability to deliver better & timely outcomes

Decision making is strengthened in a collaborative environment because you have your team to back you up.

It does increase your risk appetite when you do not have to fear repercussions or pull back from the team.

Moreover, you are emboldened to chart paths less traveled and experiment to achieve better business outcomes.

So, the question is not about the ability to make decisions. It is about the process, the approach that leads to those decisions and that acts as the deciding factor between success and failure.

What are Agile Decision Making Best Practices?

Scrum Framework, Project Management Blog

(Source: altexsoft.com)

  • Frequent Communication: Maintain open lines of communication within the team and with stakeholders. Regular check-ins and updates ensure everyone is aligned and informed about decisions and changes.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Rely on data, analytics, and market insights to inform your decisions. Data-driven choices reduce subjectivity and increase the likelihood of success.
  • Iterative Decisions: Make decisions incrementally, especially in complex projects. Regularly review decisions and adapt based on new information, changing conditions, or feedback.
  • Assign Roles: Assign clear roles for decision making within the team. Designate who is responsible for final decisions, who provides input, and who approves choices.
  • Prioritize and Focus: Prioritize decisions based on their impact and urgency. Focus on decisions that have the most significant influence on project success.
  • Rapid Experimentation: Encourage experimentation and pilot projects to test hypotheses and gather real-world insights before making larger decisions.
  • Fail Fast, Learn Faster: Embrace failure as a source of learning. If a decision doesn’t yield the expected outcome, use it as an opportunity to learn and pivot swiftly.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Stay open to change and be willing to adapt decisions based on new information or changing circumstances. Agility is key to successful decision making.
  • Feedback Loops: Establish feedback loops to continuously assess the impact of decisions. Regularly review outcomes, gather feedback, and adjust course as needed.
  • Alignment with Goals: Ensure that decisions are aligned with the overarching goals and values of the project or organization. This prevents decisions from straying off course.
  • Document and Share: Document decisions and the rationale behind them. Share this information with the team and stakeholders to maintain transparency and accountability.
  • Risk Consideration: Evaluate potential risks and benefits before making decisions. This helps anticipate challenges and devise contingency plans.
  • Embrace Empowerment: Empower team members to make decisions within their scope of expertise. This autonomy increases ownership and engagement.
  • Celebrate Success and Learning: Acknowledge successful decisions and the lessons learned from unsuccessful ones. Celebrate achievements and encourage a culture of continuous improvement.

Remember, being agile is more of a mindset, a way of doing things rather than a playbook. And its hallmarks are transparency, collaboration, iteration & compounded value of the outcomes!

It is not about taking that one decision and see it last forever. As it is never the case.

Agile decision making is all about creating & managing building blocks and piecing them together into a masterpiece.

What is Agile Mindset in Project Management?

Agile Mindset Project Management, Project Management Blog

(Source: zenexmachina.com)

  1. Embrace Change: Instead of resisting change, the agile mindset welcomes it as a natural and necessary part of project development. Teams are prepared to adjust plans, requirements, and priorities as new information emerges.
  2. Customer-Centricity: The agile mindset places the customer at the center of decision making. Teams prioritize delivering value to customers and end-users by focusing on their needs and feedback.
  3. Iterative and Incremental Development: The agile mindset encourages iterative cycles of development. Projects are divided into smaller, manageable chunks, allowing for regular feedback, continuous improvement, and the ability to respond to changing requirements.
  4. Collaboration and Communication: Collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and customers is paramount. Regular communication promotes transparency, knowledge sharing, and alignment among all parties involved.
  5. Deliver Value Early and Often: The agile mindset seeks to deliver tangible value as soon as possible. This approach allows stakeholders to see progress and provide feedback, leading to quicker course corrections if needed.
  6. Empowerment and Autonomy: Team members are empowered to make decisions within their areas of expertise. This autonomy fosters ownership, engagement, and a sense of responsibility for project outcomes.
  7. Continuous Learning and Improvement: The agile mindset promotes a culture of learning from both successes and failures. Teams reflect on their work, identify areas for improvement, and actively seek ways to enhance their processes.
  8. Adaptability and Flexibility: An agile mindset is adaptable to changing circumstances. Teams are prepared to pivot when necessary, making decisions based on the most current information available.
  9. Focus on Minimal Viable Product (MVP): The agile mindset advocates for developing the smallest version of a product that provides value to customers. This enables quicker delivery, early feedback, and the opportunity to refine features incrementally.
  10. Value Individuals and Interactions: People and their interactions are prioritized over processes and tools. The agile mindset recognizes that collaboration and effective communication drive project success.
  11. Trust and Respect: Trust and respect among team members, stakeholders, and customers are foundational. The agile mindset values diverse perspectives and treats everyone’s contributions with respect.
  12. Results-Oriented Approach: The agile mindset focuses on delivering results and outcomes. Progress is measured by working software and tangible value rather than solely by adhering to plans.

You want to be sustainable, stay ahead of the competition, fail fast and succeed faster while minimizing losses – agile decision making is the way to go.

Interestingly, you can apply it to all quadrants of your life.

The adage – “too big to fail” no longer holds water today! And this is the reason why all enterprises across industries have been adopting agile and agile project management software.

How agile of a mind-set does your enterprise reflect?

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