At a recent conference session on using Agile project methods for elearning (what we call LLAMA), an interesting question came up. I’ll paraphrase.

“Doesn’t the project team think this is just incredibly controlling?”

Uh, no…

“Really? I tried to do something very much like this and nobody liked it. They said I was controlling every minute of their lives with these very small tasks and time estimates on everything and checking in all the time. They said I was micro-managing them.”

Aha. Yes. Now I see. Yes, I would dread every moment of a project like that, too.

Here’s the thing. With Agile-based methods – including the Lot Like Agile Methods Approach, or LLAMA for learning – the project manager is not making the plan. The project team makes the plan. The project team includes the client, subject matter expert, team members and the project lead. The beautiful thing about this is that the entire process sets up what I like to call a “work-directed work team.”

In the 90s, I spent a lot of time studying self-directed work teams. These teams were often high-performing, very collaborative, leader-less teams performing well-defined business operations. Very cool stuff. Not exactly what’s going on with an Agile team, though.

Agile teams have a project leader. The leader’s job is to facilitate the planning and rituals of the Agile approach, keep track of key details and help navigate roadblocks to progress.

On an Agile project, it’s the scope and priorities that drive what work gets done and when. The client and the team agree to the goals and the boundaries of the work, and the team gets down to business. On a work-directed work team, members are given the tools they need and trusted to get the work done. Getting the work done includes updating the task status as it changes, and to raise issues as soon as they occur.

This changes the project lead’s role from one of planning, measuring and controlling to one of coaching, facilitating and communicating. It’s a far more enjoyable way to work for everyone involved.