The phrase often used is Agile Vigilance. It is the concept that in order to be successful, the agile project manager must be continually vigilant in monitoring project progress and keeping his finger on the pulse of the project development team. Some think that the most creative and agile work of a team occurs at this hypothetical edge of chaos.  However, operating on this edge usually requires continuous learning and adaptation to changing environmental conditions.

The price of agility on the edge of chaos is eternal vigilance.  In leading a project team by establishing a guiding vision, fostering teamwork and cooperation, setting simple rules, and championing open information, the job of the agile project manager has been described by some as herding cats – each person has his or her own ideas, and is more likely to behave in accordance with those ideas.

project manager oversees worker

The agile project manager must be continually vigilant to merit the mantle of leadership: monitoring progress, and keeping the project and team on track.  This does not mean hovering and controlling everything.  The project manager has established simple rules and must trust in the team and the process.  It means being observant, continuously seeking feedback and monitoring success or failure, and adapting by making changes as situations warrant:



  • Reinforce the guiding vision at every opportunity – examine project decisions to see whether they line up with the vision.

  • Continually encourage teamwork and collaboration.  Talk to the team members one-on-one as often as possible to keep a pulse on the heartbeat of the project.  Watch for signs of stress – rising tempers, fatigue, etc, and deal with them quickly.  Keep abreast of technology in order to be able to interpret the “language” of your software developers.

  • Establish simple rules, but take every opportunity to conduct process reflections: regularly examine what works and what needs improvement. Act with the courage to make changes necessary.

  • Work relentlessly to break down the barriers to information sharing.  Keep apprised of cultural sensitivities, egos, and other such factors that may impinge upon its success. Operate with a light touch.  Intervene quickly, but wisely to solve personnel issues.  Motivate and reward initiative, but manage expectations.  Recognize and encourage self-organization, but disallow cliques.

  • A lack of guidance for project managers of agile development projects can cause major issues for the project team and the engagement as a whole.  The contrast between the world of agile software development and traditional project management can leave PMs who aren’t experienced in agile processes wondering what their role should be.  By properly viewing the agile development team as a complex adaptive system and the manager as an integral part of that system, we can begin to develop a good framework for managers in the agile process.