Agile project management tips

Dave Everitt, last updated (none)

1. speed meetings
if you need to communicate with someone busy and it's too complex or too long for email, decide exactly what information you want to give/receive, then phone or visit them and ask 'do you have 3-4 minutes right now?' They'll probably say something like 'yes, but that's all'. Apologise for the brevity, then get straight to the point. Most times, you'll get the result you want.
2. nurture relationships
identify people you like with complementary or similar skills and make mutual arrangements to pass on project elements you find too demanding or routine. If the relationship is new, monitor results to ensure they understand deadlines. If you already trust them to deliver, check in a few days before crucial deadlines to discuss progress. Remember that you're a colleague and not their boss - the relationship might be another way round next time.
3. do what you like
only take on work you really enjoy, find challenging and/or agree with. Then you'll find it easier to: know what work to pass on and what to retain, keep motivated, attend to the details that make a difference, and feel good about your achievements. If you think this is impractical, read How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham, then think again.
4. set up boundaries
agree on concise lists of 'outcomes' number them for easy communication and share them online (see 6). Set an absolute delivery deadline and plan your time to meet it. If you foresee a delay from your end, discuss it immediately and negotiate agreement. If a milestone is late from the client, explain how this affects the deadline - don't accept responsibility yourself. Be kind and understanding, but keep your agreed boundaries firm unless you can change them without causing other things (personal or professional) to suffer.
5. expect the unforeseen
always include 5-10% contingency when costing up a project. In the unlikely case you don't use it, build trust by refunding the surplus.
6. keep information concise
give all colleagues, clients and partners the absolute minimum information they need at any time, and only when they need it. Don't email general messages to everyone - they'll soon stop responding. Use free online tools colleagues can access and update as they go along (like BaseCamp) or Trello, and update them regularly. If you use Dropbox (or other cloud storage) don't presume everyone has enough space without asking. For offline documents add 'last modified' dates and your contact details at the top of every document. Use descriptive filenames with unambiguous dates or versions (e.g. project-plan-08aug2008 or project-outputs-1.5).
7. plan simple
don't waste time on complex project planning charts - you'll invariably depart from them and feel stressed as a consequence. Instead, agree on interim deadlines and set up a simple list of tasks that must be done to achieve each deadline. Choose the most minimal (and free) to do list you can find and ensure everyone can access it (ToDoListMe isn't an app and sync is minimal but it has the right approach). Update your lists regularly (at least weekly) and focus only on immediate priorities - don't be tempted to burden lists with non-essentials or too many items. If you need somewhere to store other material, keep it separate from the important stuff.
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