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Using Agile Project Management to Maximize Your and Your Coauthors’ Productivity

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

New Engineering Educators Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1654.1 - 26.1654.12



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Paper Authors


Ted Eschenbach P.E. University of Alaska Anchorage

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Dr. Ted Eschenbach, P.E. is the principal of TGE Consulting, an emeritus professor of engineering management at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and the founding editor emeritus of the Engineering Management Journal. He is the author or coauthor of over 250 publications and presentations, including 19 books. With his coauthors he has won best paper awards at ASEE, ASEM, ASCE, & IIE conferences, and the 2009 Grant award for the best article in The Engineering Economist. He earned his B.S. from Purdue in 1971, his doctorate in industrial engineering from Stanford University in 1975, and his masters in civil engineering from UAA in 1999.

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Neal A Lewis University of Bridgeport

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Neal Lewis received his Ph.D. in engineering management in 2004 and B.S. in chemical engineering in 1974 from the University of Missouri – Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology), and his MBA in 2000 from the University of New Haven. He is an associate professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Bridgeport. He has over 25 years of industrial experience, having worked at Procter & Gamble and Bayer. Prior to UB, he has taught at UMR, UNH, and Marshall University. Neal is a member of ASEE, ASEM, and IIE.

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Gillian M. Nicholls Southeast Missouri State University

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Dr. Gillian M. Nicholls is an Assistant Professor of Quantitative Methods at Southeast Missouri State University. Her research interests are in applying statistical analysis and optimization to supply chain management, transportation management, and engineering education. She holds the B.S. in Industrial Engineering (Lehigh University), Masters in Business Administration (Penn State University), M.S. in Industrial Engineering (University of Pittsburgh.), and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering (University of Pittsburgh). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Nicholls was a practicing industrial engineer in the freight transportation industry. Address: Donald L. Harrison College of Business, Southeast Missouri State University, One University Plaza – MS 5815, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701; telephone (+1) 573.651.2016; fax: (+1) 573.651.2992; e-mail:

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William J. Schell IV P.E. Montana State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. William J. Schell holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering – Engineering Management from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and M.S. and B.S. degrees in Industrial and Management Engineering (IME) from Montana State University (MSU). He is an Assistant Professor in IME at MSU with research interests in engineering education and the role of leadership and culture in process improvement. Prior to his academic career, he spent 14 years in industry where he held leadership positions focused on process improvement and organizational development.

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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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