Agile Project Management Mistakes You Can Avoid with Gantt Charts

Agility is often praised as an enabler of innovation. For software teams, embracing agile practices helps speed up the deployment cycle and deliver value to customers sooner, among other benefits.

But it turns out that agile can easily turn fragile in more complex organizational structures. Pure agile doesn’t work for everyone. By nature, agile encourages flexibility and autonomy to make changes and achieve quick wins. That said, a typical agile project doesn’t have a long-term plan, nor the final product vision. Instead, it follows a timebox iteration to deliver incremental work.

That’s where agile differs from traditional project management, where there are fixed deadlines and specified deliverables.

The good news is, many PMPs find success with a blended approach: they supplement agile principles with traditional plan-driven methods like Gantt charts.

Learn how to avoid agile project management pitfalls with Gantt charts below.

Agile Project Management Mistakes can be avoided with Gantt charts
Many PMPs find success with a blended approach: they supplement agile principles with traditional plan-driven methods like Gantt charts.

Common Agile Mistakes in Project Management

Agile emphasizes continuous improvement. Which means expanding product capabilities by delivering a set of features into production in a short period of time.

When taken out of the software space, the agile approach leaves out the initial planning, project timeline, workflow, and processes. This is where agile practices fall short.

Missteps can easily happen if you’re trying to manage large-scale projects the agile way:

1. You don’t have a long-term vision for the project

In essence, agile management avoids planning ahead, making it difficult to communicate the big picture. You tend to focus on prioritizing tasks that can fit into each iteration, rather than mapping out the project deliverables and how the end-product looks. Due to the lack of insight into the project outcomes, your teams may get lost in a tunnel vision with an infinite deadline.

2. Your project suffers from fragmented outputs

As work is executed concurrently and each team is responsible for a specific component, the project output might become fragmented. Worse, you also lack visibility into the dependencies between tasks, leading to even more confusion and frustration around the project goals. Take, for example, the coordination between product and marketing. While the product team is still discussing feature A release, your marketing peeps already planned out their next campaign. The result? Misalignment between the product’s positioning and marketing messages. 

3. You can’t predict the time and resources needed with minimal planning

Due to short sprint cycles, it can be challenging to anticipate changes in the development. For instance, a team member might finish her work ahead of the sprint deadline, but she can’t jump on to new tasks before the next iteration. 

4. You think documentation is unnecessary

Being agile means being adaptive to change, but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to document anything. In project management, the lack of information clarity is an open door to scope creep. Whether it’s the team’s capacity or a baseline plan, documentation must not be neglected.

To put these agile project management mistakes into perspective, check out this (painfully) relatable illustration from Toggl:

 Avoid Agile Project Management Mistakes with Blended Agile Gantt Charts

Most PMPs have a love-hate relationship with Gantt charts. But there’s no denying its major role in an agile environment. 

In contrast with the flexibility of agile, a Gantt chart brings the complete project planning upfront. It communicates specific deliverables on a defined timeline. And you can anticipate project risks with better resource planning and a critical path view.

Despite its inherent benefits, agile project management isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint for success. That’s why modern agile project management software like Wrike and Jira haven’t completely abandoned the good ol’ Gantt chart.

Below are key Gantt chart functionalities that help PMPs yield better outcomes in agile adoption.

Project Timeline Overview

While agile teams work around a product roadmap, a Gantt chart brings a bird-eye-level view to the development timeline. You can instantly track the project progress against the baseline to identify potential roadblocks and ensure on-time delivery. As such, communicating the project status to stakeholders doesn’t require digging through various cycles. Most importantly, big-picture visibility helps to align everyone around a shared vision.

Visualization of Work Breakdown Structure and Dependencies 

One of the key benefits of planning with Gantt charts is the hierarchical order of tasks. As you break down a large portion of work into manageable tasks, teams can execute them sequentially to avoid conflicting workflows. On the same note, Gantt chart software helps you effectively manage dependencies to avoid running into fragmented project delivery. And each team member understands how their tasks impact the project plan.

Smart Capacity Planning

Another advantage of a Gantt-based project plan is visibility into resource allocation. Once you assign tasks to team members, you can then measure the workload as well as velocity, which can be done automatically. Then, you can easily reprioritize tasks or resources, especially for long-term projects.

Put Together Documentation

With the above benefits, you can seamlessly document the team’s progress and outcomes, from start to finish.  Whether it’s projected scoping or risk management, a Gantt chart view gives you a powerful way to capture critical information about the project in real-time.  

A hybrid agile approach, using Gantt charts for project management, works best when everyone is willing to adopt an agile mindset. It’s important to communicate and agree on a standard cross-functional workflow. You can’t have a fully agile team working in tandem with non-agile teams and expect agility at scale.

Old habits die hard, using Gantt chart doesn’t mean you should dictate what needs to be done in a sprint. It should only serve as a guiding map for project information. Make sure that you coordinate the sprint planning based on collective feedback from the team. Last but not least, continually refine your project framework to make the best of both worlds.

More on agile project management: 5 Agile Trends Project Managers Need To Know About in 2020

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