Agile Project Management: Navigating Through the Pitfalls and Challenges

Agile, Project Management


Agile project management can deliver faster project deployment, better alignment, and greater adaptability. In fact, data on projects completed using agile management methods shows that such projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects.

However, the adoption of agile frameworks and mindsets still proves to be a challenge in many organisations. It can be especially challenging if the organisation has grown accustomed to traditional project management methods.

Being able to identify these common hurdles along the way and finding solutions to overcome them can help avoid some of the pitfalls managers are faced with when it comes to agile project management.


Attitudes That Can Fail an Agile Project and What to do About it

In the dictionary, “attitude” is defined as a manner of carrying oneself, a disposition, a state of mind or feeling. The attitude is the preference of an organisation towards or away from methods, people, or events. It is the perspective from which an organisation approaches product development. An agile project can present multiple challenges to the project team.

Some organisations and project managers see the world through the lens of an optimist, while others see it through the lens of a pessimist. The attitude you adopt will be the secret power, the window towards project success. Since it all begins with your attitude, do you have a positive attitude in front of your team members and stakeholders?

Being agile is a shift in one’s mentality on how one approaches challenges. A team becomes agile by embracing and employing the philosophy given in the agile manifesto. Self-examine and self-organise. Focus primarily on working products and easy communication, and at the same time, drop useless meetings and paperwork.

Remember, agile, for the most part, is a state of mind that begins with having the right attitude. If you spend too much time emphasising you’re “doing agile” rather than “being agile,” you’re bound to fail.

The idea is for every member of the team to have what has been collectively decided as the agile mindset. But it all starts with the individual, whether that’s the business owner or project manager. When the leader at the helm successfully embodies the agile mindset, the rest of the team falls in place. So, what are the characteristics of an agile mindset?

Keep a Positive Attitude

There are always going to be challenges; we’re all human, and mistakes happen. It is important to keep in mind that not every task is going to go well. What’s most important is how project managers and teams deal with these situations when they arise.

For agile project management to go smoothly, issues need to be dealt with as soon as they arise and with a proactive attitude. Team members need to be trained to identify any issues or potential risks, quantify them, and come up with appropriate solutions. Usually, even something that may appear negative can be turned into an opportunity for members of the team and the organisation as a whole to improve.

Keeping a positive attitude is key for successful agile project management, especially for teams that are new to the agile world, which can make self-management more difficult. As a project manager, it is up to you to keep a positive attitude, knowing that some of the things that they’re trying might not go as planned. Rather than becoming downhearted, encourage the team to focus on what they have learned instead.

Have a Thirst for Knowledge

76% of executives already say that agile project management tools are going to become the new normal soon. So, it pays to invest your time in learning those tools. Agile is all about learning and adapting. Keeping this key fact of agility in mind, your goal should be to gain as much information as you can to improve the quality of the service or product you’re delivering. Rather than making assumptions that you’re doing what’s best for the client and the company.

With companies having to operate in an increasingly competitive business landscape where new technologies seem to be appearing every week, it pays for agile project managers to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. This means participating in meet-up groups and reading technical literature to stay abreast of the latest tools, technologies and techniques being used in the agile space. Team leaders and project managers with an inquisitive mind think outside the box and ask questions that help the entire team gain knowledge and insights into a particular area where they have been struggling.

Using the five W’s is a great technique used to gain deeper knowledge by asking; who, what, when, where and why. It should be noted here that asking a question to a customer does not always get you the answer; sometimes, the customer will tell you about the symptoms of a problem.

This usually requires a number of probing questions to gain a deeper understanding of the real underlying issue. Since testing is the responsibility of the entire team, every team member needs to be eager to gain knowledge, both about the product and how its quality can be improved.

Work Towards the Success of the Team

There is no “I” in team. This is especially true when it comes to agile project management. Agility is all about the success of the entire team and not just of an individual. This means it is more important for a project to succeed because of the efforts of the entire team rather than the heroics of an individual who completed their tasks correctly.

This requires every team member to be prepared and willing to move out of their comfort zone to help complete a particularly high-value project for the overall good of the company and is an admirable trait. Likewise, it is also crucial for agile project managers and team members to be willing to provide support or coach other team members who are not as confident or familiar with the tasks within a particular project.

Making time to walk other team members through the user story design and product owner priorities is a sign of a good team member. This attitude not only ensures that knowledge that’s key to agility is shared, but it also minimises key person dependencies, involving the entire team in finding a solution.


While delivering the highest level of quality is a crucial aspect of agile, different team members will have varied definitions of quality. This is why it is crucial for all team members to understand what is most important to the organisation before finding a sensible solution based on practical and realistic goals rather than theoretical assumptions. In agile, ‘good enough today is better than perfect tomorrow’ is a good strategy.

Don’t talk about why it can’t be done; explain what can be done. While it is not possible to change the mindset of the entire team, agile project managers can show their team members what the future could look like and then help them create it.

Willingness to Fail

Agilists know all too well that the best way for a person to learn is to first fail at doing something. While every agile project manager would prefer their team to do as much research beforehand to minimise the chances of failure, not everything is always going to go as expected.

In other words, if there is a choice between the possibility of failing when moving forward with a new idea or approach, or doing nothing at all, the PM has to make sure their team is comfortable to try without having a fear of repercussions if they do fail. Some of the ways to encourage this mindset in agile project management include:

  • Not hiding failure, but rather embracing it as a learning opportunity.
  • Encouraging all team members to be open with their colleagues.
  • Let team members feel empowered to talk about issues.
  • Promote new learning opportunities from failures.

Innovation comes from trying new ideas that may not have been explored before. This brings with it the risk of failure. However, it’s important to not be afraid to question the norm, especially if familiar methods aren’t proving to be as effective anymore.

This could seem like an uphill task for many new agile project managers and professionals, which is why there are professional courses that are designed to address these issues and various others. These courses include real-world simulations that encourage participants to develop an agile mindset.

What Does Robust Agility Require?

While there are many books, such as ‘Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process’ by Kenneth Rubin that have been written on how to be agile, the following are some of the basic principles that are key for agile success:

  1. Tracking and Documenting Issues – This should be done according to priority to ensure resolution of all critical issues prior to going live.
  2. Project Governance – Project governance needs to be put in place to provide a robust, and more importantly, a repeatable system where clear roles and responsibilities are defined for each team member.
  3. Adequate Testing – Performing adequate testing is critical to ensure quality criteria are met. This may take many forms, such as regression, user acceptance, unit, and quality testing.
  4. Design Principles – Ensure all design principles pertaining to fail secure and defence in depth are being followed and adhered to by all team members.
  5. Enforce Segregation – A segregation strategy needs to be put in place to validate the need for changes before such changes are actioned.
  6. Clear Communication – Agility demands open and transparent communication between all team members.
  7. Trust your team – agile teams need to be self-organising and commit to team success, and an agile project manager must support this while also acknowledging that the team is spending organisational resources entrusted to the project manager.
  8. Ability to Focus – The ability to cut through unnecessary work and focus on essential tasks.
  9. Sound Judgment – Having sound judgment under pressure along with the ability to remain calm under stress is key for smooth agile implementation.
  10. Strong Coaching and Motivational Skill – For an agile project manager, it is important to guide and support teams throughout the lifecycle of a project. This is where strong coaching and motivational skills, along with agile training programs, come into play.
  11. Exceptional Organisational Capabilities – Having exceptional organisational capabilities ensures all tasks are clearly discussed and delegated to the appropriate team members.
  12. Make Decisions in a Fast-Paced Environment – Every agile project manager needs to have the ability to think outside the box and make critical decisions on-the-fly as circumstances change.
  13. Adaptability — Agile teams require a high level of adaptability to accept change. This helps reduce any unnecessary confusion, which could lead to risking the entire project.

Implementing Agile into the way projects are managed can dramatically increase the project’s chances for success. But, only if you do agile the right way.

No Silver Bullet

Agile is far from being the silver bullet that some believe it to be. Simply adopting agile methods or tools without gaining a deeper understanding of what it really means to be agile will not solve your problems but instead, might create a set of new ones. Because all team members must adopt an agile mindset for agile methods to work, effective agile project management may be harder to accomplish than traditional approaches.

If you don’t want to be the person who follows others blindly, congratulations. You’ve made the first step towards gaining a better understanding of agile project management. But, simply acknowledging that you don’t know as much about agile won’t do. You need to take action.

EZY Skills is an Australian-based online learning academy that offers exclusive and globally-recognised online courses to help professionals learn the latest tools and methods for successful agile project management. Our Agile Project Management Courses off two levels of certification based on your qualifications and experience with Agile.

The habits and beliefs of both large organisations and small-scale start-ups are naturally deep-rooted. Making room for change is one of the major transition challenges faced by professionals and companies who are looking towards agile transformation.

Luckily, there are highly specialised courses available that can help you get the desired result from this change. All you have to do to get the ball rolling is to send us an email at



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