June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
New Engineering Educators
26.1654.1 - 26.1654.12
Using Agile Project Management to Maximize Your and Your Coauthors’ ProductivityKeywords: writing productivity, work-life balance, agile project managementFor decades as information technology (IT) projects grew bigger and more complex, projectfailures seemed to become increasingly common, in spite of intense efforts to apply traditionalproject planning. Those traditional planning tools focused on balancing a triple constraint of cost,schedule, and scope to create a plan. Then those tools unsuccessfully focused on delivering theplanned scope within the planned cost and schedule. About 15 years ago the “agile projectmanifesto” pointed the way to better manage a flexible scope in an uncertain environment. Sincethen agile project management in IT has matured and proven itself for large and small ITprojects.Our coauthor group started with a senior, highly productive academic and a senior industryprofessional who earned a doctorate to shift to academia. For about 6 years this team was quiteproductive. Just as they were adding another academic who had made a mid-career shift fromindustry, a keynote presentation in October 2012 on agile in IT led to the realization that thework of academics had far more in common with IT than traditional projects. That realization ledto the development of a simplified form of agile project management that has been easily andeffectively applied to increase our productivity and improve the quality of our lives.This paper describes how and why academic work often has (1) a poorly defined scope, (2)unknown and perhaps unknowable task times, (3) an unknown number and set of tasks whichimplies unknown task dependencies, and (4) an ever-changing availability of time for eachproject due to the time impact of other projects. All four often combine in a perfect storm thatdestroys the ability to use traditional project planning. The paper then describes a simplifiedform of agile project management built around the flexible management of scope, prioritizationof projects and tasks, and creation/management of deadlines. Details of positive and negativelessons learned support immediate application of this approach.For example, we’ve found that breaking larger tasks up into smaller ones produces more frequentwins and momentum. Since these are linked with positive emotions, productivity often furtherincreases. Instead of feeling like a failure when plans are hopelessly wrong (more common forthose who are newer to a task), an agile state of mind allows academics to work with theuncertainty and supports being far more effective and efficient. In addition, extending agile toour to-do list has improved our work-life balance.In order to maximize this paper’s value to new engineering educators and recognizing that“newbies” may more frequently find themselves writing alone, the discussion of how to applyagile project management is integrated with discussions of how to identify and work with writinggroups and coauthors, as the group approach is key to successfully capturing all the benefits ofan agile approach.
Eschenbach, T., & Lewis, N. A., & Nicholls, G. M., & Schell, W. J. (2015, June), Using Agile Project Management to Maximize Your and Your Coauthors’ Productivity Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24990
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