Designed as a method for software development, agile project management is considered a radical alternative to classical project management. It draws its strength from various processes such as Scrum or Kanban, which can be used to react dynamically and flexibly to changes. Frank Gärtner, Associate Partner at ARKADIA Management Consultants GmbH, gave a guest lecture on the challenges agile teams face in business practice as part of a guest lecture at our campus.
From large corporation to start-up – in his 20 years of experience as a management consultant, Frank Gärtner has gained insight into various working environments and a great deal of expertise in agile project management. “Many of my clients want an agile transformation, but underestimate their hurdles in implementation: Agile teams use a completely different set of minds and methods than non-agile teams. This makes the transformation process conflictual, arduous and yet indispensable – the future of project management lies in agility,” says Frank Gärtner.
The clash of two worlds: Classic vs. agile project management
Agile teams today face the challenge of defending their principles in a world marked by top-down decision-making. The structure and processes of traditional companies posed the biggest hurdle: As “monoliths”, they would have grown systems that would be unproductive and little customer-centric. As an example, Frank Gärtner cited the product approval process, which would have to go through all stages within the company and would usually take one year to certify, test and approve products. Agile project management is difficult under these conditions.
Even if agile teams work in units far away from the parent company, at least one system dependency would always remain: budget planning. The principle of distributing fixed budgets would be typical for classic project management, which places great value on exact plan implementation. Agile project management, on the other hand, relies on changeability, in which interim results are produced in short cycles, discussed with the customer and then the course for the next planning interval is determined.
“Despite these hurdles, agile project management is an opportunity for companies. In an order for a bank, for example, there was the need to develop an app, so that the customer does not need more than seven minutes to open an account,” says Frank Gärtner. “I can only recommend working in agile teams to the CBS students: Within a very short time, they can acquire skills in various disciplines and learn how to act efficiently in a dynamic environment.
Photo: Frank Gärtner (centre) with President Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Fröhlich and Dr. Ulrich Anders