Practical Agile/Scrum for Better Project Management

Development teams often get stuck when they encounter real-life challenges that are not addressed by most formal Agile/Scrum training, especially when they try to implement Agile/Scrum in a traditional/Waterfall environment.

Some examples:

  • How do you handle a sponsor that wants regular “percentage complete” progress reporting and release schedules?  Isn’t Agile/Scrum supposed to free us of this reporting?
  • How can you deal with reliance on other groups/functions that still practice traditional or Waterfall project management?
  • My organization wants us to use formal risk assessment – isn’t that against the spirit of Agile?
  • My sponsor insists on the project fitting into a feasibility gating project framework. That doesn’t sound very Agile.
  • How can I coordinate multiple teams to deliver in a synchronized, smooth way?

In this content area, we share the top challenges encountered by Scrum teams and our best, proven solutions to deal with them.  Some examples and tips:

Scope Management 

  • Agile does not mean a scope free-for-all: create and manage a backlog instead.  Try creating a “Minimum Valuable Product” and take things out of your backlog that don’t create value.

Requirements – What really works?  

  • Most teams only need:  acceptance criteria, process/business flows, business rules and visuals – wireframes, mapping documents, value mapping.   What do you think you need and why?

Release Planning and Beyond 

  • Develop a roadmap showing leadership the underlying assumptions and delivery plan of work.  They’ll feel better and it will build trust.

Dependencies Outside of Your Team

  • Identify and place them on your roadmap – examples include: architecture, database etc.  Understanding the environment and the constraints within it are key.


  • Create a visual and update every month – Scrum will point out issues and risks – what will you do with this rich data?

In this content area, we cover:

  • How can I apply Agile concepts while working in an organization that uses traditional project management?
  • How to adapt Agile/Scrum tools
  • Scope Management - Agile does not mean scope free-for-all 
  • Requirements – High-level versus detailed, specific requirements.  What really works? How can we optimize the work in defining requirements? 
  • Release Planning and Beyond – creating clarity of the underlying assumptions and delivery a plan of work to give leadership confidence and build trust.
  • Identifying dependencies, especially when the functions you are working with are not using Agile/Scrum.
  • Risk Management – how to create and provide monthly updates without creating more work.
  • Optimizing 15-minute Scrum meetings to increase your effectiveness as a team.
  • Estimating – how to use units beyond just time, and increase your knowledge based on your actual results.
  • Status Reporting – When you estimate based on release, reporting can be easily translated into the more traditional ‘percentage complete’ status
  • Capacity Planning – use your history!  Create a time period so that you can reflect on all your team has learned and adjust based on your experience.
  • Set-up – evaluate the Scrum Framework and pick out an element of Scrum to improve.
  • Continuous Improvement – How to optimize retrospectives regularly and track your improvement success.
  • Change Management – Not all changes are created equally. How to create change management guidelines with a clear escalation path based on amount of deviation from scope, schedule, and cost.
  • The Gating Process – Agile backlog creation aligns perfectly with the Feasibility Gate Requirements.  Do work in Commitment to validate exactly how long it takes to create features of your product.
  • Quality Management – Involve your testers as early as possible.  Consider how you can ‘shift testing left’ aka starting testing earlier
  • Multiple team coordination – create an integrated roadmap where all work is understood, and meet regularly to discuss where teams might need help from each other. Hint: for every piece of work, identify what help you will need and who you are doing the work for.
  • User Stories and Definition of Done – use this to ensure that all team members have a common understanding what it means when work is completed.
  • How to boost the Agile/Scrum mindset in my organization, including at the leadership levels.
  • What are some concrete next steps that I can take and apply to my current working environment?


  • One-hour talk
  • Two day training workshop for Scrum Masters, Scrum Teams, Product Owners and Leadership
  • Consulting engagements to work side-by-side with you to improve your ability to deal with these challenges
  • Mentoring to keep you on course


If your organization insists on a project “gating” process (where you must pass certain milestones at a certain level to proceed to the next phase) – Agile backlog creation aligns perfectly with the Feasibility Gate Requirements.  Do work in the Commitment to validate exactly how long it takes to create features of your product and fit it into your gating structure.