10 principles of agile project management for Target Operating Model design

What can be learnt from the IT community to efficiently  organise and deliver complex organisational projects?

Agile is THE kid on the block as far as the IT industry is concerned. Rapid application, Scrum, Kanban and other lightweight software development methods have been challenging traditional approaches such as waterfall for several years now.  The key attraction of agile methods is that their philosophy focuses on people over tools, deliverables that work in practice rather than on paper, continuous collaboration over infrequent interaction events and responsiveness to change over rigid following a preset master plan.

At its heart, an agile method favours flexibility to change by encouraging planning and implementation to work together rather than sequentially, as has been the case in more formal project management. In its extreme cases, agile means quite literally flying by the seat of the pants as the project tasks and even specific goals emerge as the effort is put into solving a particular, sometimes ambiguous, challenge.

There are numerous opponents of the extreme agile self-organising ‘edge of chaos’ approach, especially in formal corporate environments that expect a considerable degree of predictability and planning.  Yet its change-welcoming qualities make some elements of agile method supremely suitable for Transformation & Change projects, and certainly those that encompass new Target Operating Model development. As these projects are characterised by significant stakeholder complexity, final output uncertainty and ever-present change in project requirements and goals, incorporating agile philosophies into more structured methodologies such as ones used in Strategic Business Architecture makes perfect sense.

Looking at the original Agile Manifesto, it is possible to relate many of its principles to Transformation & Change project management, and Target Operating Model design in particular. Reframed to reflect the new purpose, they read as follows:

  1. Ensure timely stakeholder management through appropriate communication, engagement and change management action; address stakeholder concerns at all levels  and make sure that there are consistent answers to their burning questions;
  2. Establish clear project governance and boundaries of what is in or out of scope, but then let the project team run with it;
  3. Report on progress and interact with change owner(s) frequently; validate what has been done and solicit feedback;
  4. Compose the project team of motivated and experienced people who will know what their roles in the post-project world are going to be; select them carefully and trust that they are the experts to be listened to;
  5. Engage with people from the business as part of the extended project team; do not run all of it as a ‘closed chamber’ exercise;
  6. Encourage face-to-face communication between the project team and the organisation as much as possible; base the team across stakeholder locations as project ambassadors;
  7. Welcome change in requirements and expectations; ensure that core project principles are set but be prepared to accept shift in weights and priorities;
  8. Use clarity and fitness for purpose of the model design and its individual components as the main measure of progress; not everyone will be happy with accepting the final design but its workings must make sense to all;
  9. Focus attention on proposed models’s effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness; remember to prioritise operational practicality and pragmatism over wishful thinking (Keep things simple and use common sense a lot; then look at what you have designed and use some more);
  10. Maintain a brisk project pace at all times; prefer to expedite practical implementation over theoretical agonising.

The above principles are not not exhaustive, but something that struck me as vital to get right from my previous experience of Target Operating Model design and large scale transformation. If you want to add to them or reflect on what is already there – let the discussion begin!


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