Agile is a set of principles and methods applied in business to ensure the successful delivery of a project. Agile as a concept was actually borrowed from the automotive and software industry, which relies on its flexibility in project management.
Agile project management
However well you plan a project, unforeseen issues may arise, resulting in delays and pushing up the project’s cost. Agile Project Management is meant to help you resolve these situations when they arise. It quickly adapts to changing circumstances in the project’s deliverables and shortens the time between identification of a problem and its resolution.
The Principles of Agile
To understand how the principles of agile can be applied in the construction industry, we must go back to the key values that underpin Agile as a principle. These are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: While processes and tools are important, it’s even more important to have teamwork and communication between the people working in the project.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation: Rather than concentrating on documentation, emphasis should be placed on the practical deliverables of a project.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: While it is important to adhere to the contract, it doesn’t override the need to work closely with the client to understand their needs.
- Responding to change over following a plan: For the project plan to work, it must be flexible enough to accommodate new developments in technology or the working environment, as well as stakeholders’ priorities.
Agile Management in Construction
The principles of agile are broadly applied as follows:
- Goals must be clearly defined for the project.
- Project deliverables are aligned to customer requirements.
- The project or its challenges are broken down into bits that are addressed in order of priority.
- There is a continuous review of the project’s progress. Where there are improvements, these are applied to the project.
- The project’s tasks or activities are delineated so that it’s clear to all project members when they’ve been completed.
- Collaboration and teamwork across different facets of the project are fostered so as to develop team intelligence and know-how.
Of course, not all agile principles can be carried over to the construction industry. For example, it’s difficult to make major changes at the later stages of the project when funds have been committed, materials ordered, crews in place, and structures have already been erected. Agile construction project management, therefore, has to tweak some of these practices to make a better fit for the industry’s unique circumstances.
During the pre-design and design phases, agile project management increases engagement with the customer and helps define better what the project deliverables are. It can also break down complex projects into sub-projects that are easier to manage.
In the execution phase, agile can help in the management of critical path activities, thereby taking care of any contingencies more efficiently. By allowing you to carry out period re-planning and adjustment, it prevents any complexities that may arise e.g., unavailability of specific construction materials from holding back the entire project.