Classical project management involves breaking the project up into a jigsaw of Work Packages that are done by individuals or small teams and eventually knit together as the final product. This approach has a long and honourable history and is still appropriate for many kinds of project, especially those involving complex hardware.
In the Agile approach, by contrast, a team works together in a Scrum sharing tasks in an informal way to deliver a defined output in a relatively short time (a Sprint). The team meets every day so decision-making is very rapid; and the sense of shared purpose often generates high levels of energy and satisfaction.
Agile methods are well suited to software projects, especially upgrades, because new versions of the code may be defined in stages which can be completed, tested and perhaps released, quite readily. And team members tend not to have specialised skills so the work can be readily shared.
Many companies are now working on applying agile methods to non-software projects, or at least to parts of them. Clearly, building prototypes for testing may take much longer and be more demanding for, say an aero engine than for a new user interface; and electrical and mechanical experts cannot necessarily share tasks. But some elements of scrum working may be possible especially in the earlier, investigative, parts of a new development.
This MSc thesis from Chalmers University is an interesting study of one company’s experience with agile working methods. There will be more such to come:
Read the full paper:
Scrum in Mechanical Product Development: Case Study of a Mechanical Product Development Team using Scrum, T Renisdottir, MSc. Chalmers University, 2013
Recommended by and post by Rick Mitchell.