In an era of cutting costs and fast moving scenarios, big corporations can save time and money by embracing efficient management practices that, collectively, come under the name of Agile Project Management (APM). 

In a traditional management approach the work is scheduled over a long period of time and, although it may be very clear what final results the project aims to, a top-down control tends to slow down production. 

What an Agile Project Management approach does is breaking down the workload into smaller segments to create a more dynamic stream of production. Every segment constitutes a work unit assigned to a specific team, each team being responsible for providing their results in a short, fixed period of time, called Sprint. Normally every Sprint lasts about two week. 

This also allows a continuous revision of the work completed so far, as every work unit is evaluated at the end of each Sprint. A Sprint is effectively an independent cycle of production, and because of the constant iteration between backwards and forwards, this methodology also comes under the name of Scrum, after the rugby formation. In the game, players must move forwards but can only pass the ball backwards, to a supporting player. In the same way, in an Agile project environment each small unit completes its share of the work and then passes it on to another unit.

Agile management promotes individual initiative over control from the top, and, in this way, it is much fitter to respond to a change, as the developers are not asked to follow a scheduled plan, but rather to move on from where the previous team had arrived. 

Linda Lloyd is responsible for implementing agile practices at Thales, one of the world’s largest aerospace and naval manufacturers. She was commended twice by the Ministry of Defence for leading her teams to constantly exceed expectations while managing defence contracts worth millions of pounds. 

Adopting Agile in a regulated environment like the military industry was not an easy task. “It is more like a culture that the company has to take up as a whole,” she says. “Of course, there are still some requirements that must be fulfilled, I am talking of financial requirements, regulation requirements and so on, and there must be a central control from the top.” 

A hybrid approach is the one to follow: “You still need to track projects, you still need to understand, and evaluate, the performance of the software teams, and to deliver what agreed with the costumer.”

For this reason, the figure of the project manager is key: “It might look smaller in terms of production, because every team should be working on its own, but the manager’s role is actually more difficult because he/she has to deal with all those different types of relationships and make them work together.”

Companies that adopt an agile mentality are quicker to respond to changes and their employees benefit from the freedom of initiative they are given. The role of the manager is to channel that initiative to game winning solution.