Organizations are constantly undertaking projects and modernizations to better their business operations, services, or processes. There are different methodologies that can be utilized by contractors or organizations that create different lifecyclesto execute theproject.

Agile is an increasingly popular methodology that has gained more attention due to its iterative nature that delivers results on an incremental basiswhilereducingrisk and increasingproject control. Projects can run into obstacles for many reasons including cost, scheduling, functionality, or personnel issues. Some obstacles are outside of the control of the project team resulting in contingencies or other planning methods to identify and mitigate problems. 

Lack of communication can cause additional obstacles that could have been avoided and can cause unnecessary delays or costs. The general importance of communication seems obvious, but it can often be overlooked or taken for granted. Itis vital to the project’ssuccess and important at all stages in the lifecycle from initiation to delivery.

Yet many projects, even projects using agile methodology, are crippled due to unclear or inadequate communication with team members. According to an article published by the Project Management Institute, found here, half of unsuccessful projects can be directly attributed to lack of effective communication.

Projects usingAgileMethodology are especially dependent on communication because of the team environment and the need for understanding of business requirements through all members of the team. 

So how can a project team increase control and minimize unnecessary risks in theAgileproject lifecycle and decrease the likelihood of the project failing?

Communication is the best way to increase cooperation and clarity regarding all aspects of the project lifecycle, especially in an agile environment.It is important for communication to be the foundation for teamwork and for the ongoing relationship with stakeholders. According to the PMI,the project manager should spend 90% of their time communicating.  

Communication with teammates in anAgile environment is the groundwork for a successful project. 

The Agile Manifesto Identifies Many Principles that Highlight Communication

Communication is an important part of any projectbut is essential when utilizing Agile Methodology.The creators of Agile understood and highlighted thesignificanceof communicationand collaborationthough this process in the Agile Manifesto, which outlines the basic components and principlesof Agile.

It highlights the importanceof interactions over processes,collaboration over negotiation, anddaily meetings byface-to-facecommunicationover documentation. There is also space forreflection and feedbackafter each sprint while there should beteam driven productivity anddecentralized decision making, overall communication is at the root of Agileprinciples. 

The foundation of Agile is a self-organizing teamthatuses design focused methodology todeliver working softwarebenefitsthough sprints or phases to receive feedbackincrementally.

Selecting the right members for theteamandcreatinga healthy and opengroupcultureis the first step to startingan Agileproject.Individuals on the team must fit and support the team dynamic. They mustbe team players,open to feedback,have excellent communication skills,care about the team success over personal success,andbe flexible. A toxic team member, unwilling or unable to properly communicate and contribute to the team can be toxic to project development and success. 

Agile is meant to be decentralized in decision makingand self-organizing,but it is important forteam members to haveclarification of their roles and tasks.Communication should help membershave aclearunderstanding oftheirresponsibilities, dailyand wholistic goals,and performance expectations throughout the project lifecycle.    

The focus of Agile istrulya designed focused methodology, not a “code like hell” methodology. The key component isfor memberstofully understand thedesignand goals for the current sprint phasebefore coding begins.

Clear and constant communication ishow toensureall members of the Agile team have a clear understandingof the designfor the current deliverables as well as the definition of done for each sprint.This communication and clarity can prevent “coding like hell” and rework thatmisunderstanding of requirements may cause within the team.

The result is a faster, more productive, and accurate designthat is delivered with the end strategic goalin each team member’s mind. 

How to Achieve Effective Communication Methodsfor Agile Teams

The idealcommunication methodfor Agile teams begins withface-to-facedaily meetingswith a facilitator.These meetings discuss the objectives for the day, any potential issues or obstacles, followed by collaboration for solving these issues, andanyother comments, concerns, or ideas about the work. Communication should be continued throughout the day when needed and resolved byin person, email, or phone conversations. 

Communication is a two-way street; with the sender and receiver both communicating back and forth.Active listening is the keyto establishing understandingin what is being communicated and engaging in communicationinteractions.It shows you are interested, invested, andactivelyabsorbingthe information.    

Within theAgile team, the multidisciplinary aspect is an advantage to creating the bestproduct butcan bechallenging. When communicating with the team, it’s multidisciplinary nature and differencesbetween teammatesmust beconsidered.

It’s ideal to useteam members experienced in AgileMethodology and Agile team dynamics.Experience is only gained through practice and the different backgrounds,habits, and preferences of individual membersshouldbeconsideredwhen communicating.    

There are Implications as the Project Lifecycle in Agile Advances 

As mentioned earlier,Agile Methodology is built upon providing constantbenefits through iterationsof working softwareasthe project lifecycleprogresses.

Agile is unlike other project development methods,like “big bang” modernization,where there is discussion at the beginning of the projectregarding end results, personnel are given jobs, and the software is developed and implemented at one time atthe end of lifecycle without interim communication.Agile requires constant communication within the team daily, during and after each sprint, andat the end of the lifecycle.   

Deliverables and solutions should be discussedwith theteamand feedbackfrom stakeholdersshould be acknowledged and discussed as iterations and demonstrations are completed.The communication throughout these phasesabout updated requirements or details withmemberswill decrease the need for rework and improve the final solution results and usability. 

Because of the style of Agile, the importance of communicationthough each iteration becomes more apparentasthe final product becomes realized.Poor communicationhas greater impactson schedule and functionality of the softwareas the lifecycle progresses.Daily stand ups,feedback, and reflection following sprintsare ways that communicationby each team membershould be carried on as development advances.

Modernization efforts are complex, time consuming, and risky. The environment of information technology is constantly improving and expanding while projects can easily be delayed due to budget, resource, or schedule restrictions. Agile Methodology provides more benefits incrementally but is extremely dependent on constant, honest, and efficient communication between team members and with stakeholders. Communication is the best way to decrease risks, increase transparency, and create the best solution for the organization. 

 

If you're interested in learning more about how to transition to a new organizational paradigm with agile, click here to download our "Project Management for Agile" guide.