Home » What Is Agile Project Management?

What Is Agile Project Management?

project-management.com content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing projects and teams that focuses on incremental changes to a project throughout its life cycle. Rather than a pre-planned course of action, Agile project management outlines adaptable tasks that are flexible based on the needs of the project and evolving circumstances. 

Continuous adjustments throughout the project lifecycle help Agile projects deliver ongoing value to stakeholders while keeping them in the ideation process.

Within the Agile project management methodology, there are numerous Agile frameworks, such as kanban, scrum, and lean. Because of its highly flexible design, Agile project management is popular with software development teams, video game developers, and other technical teams. 

How Does Agile Project Management Work?

Agile project management is rooted in teamwork, continuous ideation, and adjustability. Instead of a sole project manager leading project efforts, teams share the responsibility, holding each other accountable through frequent check-ins throughout the project lifecycle. Adaptability is the name of the game for Agile teams, as plans are frequently reevaluated, ideas are constantly tested, and adjustments are routinely made, as needed. 

Outside feedback and collaboration are essential, especially from key stakeholders, and multiple iterations are encouraged. Throughout the project lifecycle, teams will frequently reflect upon what’s going well, what areas have been a challenge, and how better solutions can be rolled into place as the project continues. 

Read More: Agile Software Development Methodology & Principles

Which Frameworks are a Part of the Agile Methodology?

The Agile methodology is just that – a set of ideas and methods for managing and completing projects. Within that methodology exists frameworks, which serve as guidelines for enacting those ideas in practice. Traditional agile project management can be divided into two frameworks: scrum and kanban.

Scrum Framework

The scrum framework divides a total backlog of work objectives into a project timeline that is then further broken down into smaller, predetermined fragments of time called sprints. Within each project sprint, team members devote time to four types of meetings that keep the project (and team) on track. These designated meetings, also called Agile ceremonies, vary in type, length, and topic, based on their intended purpose. The four types of meetings fall into four distinct categories: sprint planning meetings, daily standup meetings, sprint review meetings, and sprint retrospective meetings. 

Types of Agile Ceremonies in the Scrum Methodology

Name of CeremonyWhenDurationPurpose
Sprint PlanningAt the beginning of a sprintRoughly one hour per week•Prepares team members for what’s ahead

•Allows team members to connect and get acquainted

•Briefs everyone on what to expect throughout the sprint
Daily Stand-UpDaily, typically before lunchNo more than 15 – 20 minutes•Keeps team members in the loop concerning day-to-day operations

•Provides clarity about what each team member is working on

•Allows room for team members to address any blockages or setbacks in real time as they come up
Sprint ReviewEnd of the sprint45 – 90 minutes•Gives team members a space to highlight their work 

•Designates a time to celebrate team accomplishments

•Allows team members to get feedback instantly
Sprint RetrospectiveEnd of the sprint45- 90 minutes•Keeps team members in the loop concerning day-to-day operations

•Provides clarity about what each team member is working on

•Allows room for team members to address any blockages or setbacks in real-time as they come up

Kanban Framework

The kanban method aims to help teams complete work even faster than the scrum method by allowing them to complete tasks at their own pace. Before the project begins, the team determines Work In Progress Limits (WIP) to determine how much work is proportional to the team’s capacity. Instead of compiling work tasks in a backlog, assignments are divided into a to-do list so teams can respond faster. 

Both of these frameworks rely on visual organization systems to streamline and optimize how teams view tasks and project progress, often referred to as scrum boards or kanban boards. 

Read More: 5 Best Kanban Software 2023

Other Frameworks

While scrum and kanban are two essential frameworks under the Agile methodology, they aren’t the only Agile frameworks. While all Agile frameworks follow the key principles and values of Agile project management, various frameworks have developed over time to help teams with diverse needs. Other methodologies include extreme programming (XP), crystal, and lean.

Key Principles & Values of Agile Project Management

The Agile Manifesto was created by the 17 original creators of the Agile methodology as a set of principles and guidelines to guide potential adaptors of the Agile methodology down the line. The idea was to create a structure of values that would allow various types of teams to solve diverse problems indefinitely, guided by a cohesive set of rules.

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Simply put, human interaction and collaboration are paramount – meaning teams must meet together to discuss solutions before processes and tools can be implemented to bolster them. The process and tools used by teams should reflect and serve the needs of the team itself – not the other way around. 

  1. Working software over comprehensive documentation

While this value speaks directly to software development teams, the lesson applies to a team’s final deliverable goal. This value reminds teams to prioritize a project’s ultimate goal first and focus on documentation second. 

  1. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

This value speaks to the essence of what the Agile methodology and human relationships themselves represent – embracing change over time. Just as an Agile project’s path may change over time, so will the nature of the working relationships your team nurtures. Instead of focusing on documenting the terms of that relationship upfront, focus on nurturing those relationships as they evolve and grow. 

  1. Responding to change over following a plan

In short, adaptability and willingness to embrace change are vital. Responding to a project’s needs and prioritizing flexibility over rigid plans allow teams to respond faster to unexpected hurdles in the project lifecycle and create solutions faster.

In addition to the four values of Project Management, there are 12 established principles of project management, according to the Agile manifesto:

  1. Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of a valuable product. Prioritize getting a functional product to stakeholders, including customers, as early as possible – even if further developments will be made down the line. 
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. The agile methodology embraces change, regardless of whether it occurs on day one or the final day of a project. Change is a chance to innovate – and ultimately, provide a better product. 
  3. Deliver a functional product frequently. Ensure that stakeholders see routine value from your team’s work on the product and deliver that value as quickly as possible.
  4. Business people and developers must work together. Daily collaboration is crucial in the Agile methodology, requiring that both technical and non-technical team members work together to ideate and problem-solve. 
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Allow your talented team members to shine by fostering a positive environment, providing them with the support they need, and trusting them to get the job done.
  6. Face-to-face communication is key. Whether over video call or in person, face-to-face communication is crucial to ensure the success of an Agile project. 
  7. A working product is the primary measure of progress. In the Agile methodology, the end result of a successful product is the main gauge of project success. 
  8. Sustainable development is a priority. An agile project should be sustainable, meaning the team can maintain a consistent pace indefinitely. 
  9. Attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. Teams that mind small details and prioritize high-quality work throughout the process become more agile. 
  10. Simplicity is essential. Limiting work is a measure of success, as teams are able to simplify and streamline workflows. 
  11. Self-organizing teams often achieve the best results. A strong emphasis on self-organization is a key priority for Agile projects. Teams that are able to effectively self-organize and manage become more efficient by looking inward to ideate, improve, and adjust throughout the project’s lifecycle. 
  12. Regularly reflect on how to become more effective then tune and adjust your team practices and behavior accordingly. Routine meetings and team check-ins can help make this process easier. 

Pros & Cons of Agile Project Management

Overall flexibility: The Agile methodology is deeply rooted in team adaptability and is designed to allow change throughout the project lifecycle. 

Faster results for stakeholders: Delivering a successful product quickly is a core component of Agile project management, so stakeholders have a complete product to work with, even if further revisions are needed.

Freedom of creativity: Because Agile projects follow a more flexible structure than other project management methodologies, team members have more creative freedom to take risks and innovate along the way. 

Simultaneous feedback and implementation phases: Agile projects can instantly pivot once feedback is given, eliminating the gap between feedback and implementation. 
Collaboration struggles: Team collaboration is a must in the Agile methodology, which can be challenging for larger teams, remote teams, or teams that are less established.

Less clarity about the project budget and timeline. Flexible project outlines can mean less predictability around deadlines and costs/budget.

Increased ambiguity. Overall, the project plan itself is less clear as it’s an adaptable process.

Team reliability. Agile projects rely on the team unit as the core of project success, so the team has to be incredibly reliable without any weak links.

How Software Can Help in Agile Project Management?

Project management software is a tremendous tool in helping teams successfully organize and manage Agile projects. While vendor-specific features and functionality may vary, project management software allows teams to facilitate all project-essential activities in one place, including setting and assigning deadlines, planning out project goals, collaborating with team members, storing documents, taking notes, and more. Project management software also makes it easy for teams to visualize to-dos and project progress through numerous task views, from kanban boards, scrum boards, calendar views, Gantt charts, and more. 

Sample Kanban board with post it notes.

Example of a kanban board in project management software.

Read More: Best Agile Software & Tools for Project Management

Origins of Agile Project Management

While early Agile methodologies have been recorded as far back as 1620, in Francis Bacon’s interpretation of the scientific method, modern Agile project management was conceived in response to the technology boom of the 1990s. 

Agile project management (the approach to running projects that’s built upon the Agile Manifesto’s Twelve Principles of Agile Software) was born out of a need for more adaptable work methods within the technology and software industries. In the 1990s, new companies were emerging with innovative new ideas for technology and software, but many of those ideas were abandoned prematurely due to struggles in the development process. Without any framework in place to adapt to a project’s changing needs, many companies realized a need for a more dynamic project management methodology.

There were three main problems that needed to be solved:

  1. Businesses had no processes in place to handle the unexpected or adjust mid-project to changing needs and requirements.
  2. Teams were taking too long to adapt to feedback and new ideas.
  3. Technical team members, business team members, and other stakeholders weren’t communicating and working together as efficiently as possible.

In 2000, seventeen self-described “organizational anarchists” met in Snowbird, Utah, to share ideas on a better way forward, eventually settling on what is now known as the modern Agile methodology. Out of that meeting arose The Agile Manifesto which puts into words the principles this new approach would embody.


If your team is looking to transition into the Agile methodology, you want to be prepared ahead of time. Here are a few tips for your team to keep in mind as you transition into an Agile project management model:

  • Prioritize servant leadership. Agile teams emphasize teamwork and collaboration. Rather than simply leading your team, prioritize servant leadership, which allows you to lead your team from more of a coaching style. 
  • Assemble your team. One of the most important factors in establishing an Agile team is reliability. Consider your team’s strengths and weaknesses and help place team members in the best possible position to thrive by providing a positive environment, encouraging face-to-face communication, and checking in regularly. 
  • Master the new layout. Having daily standup meetings, retrospective meetings, and more frequent check-ins can be intimidating for teams who are new to the Agile methodology. Ensure that everyone on your team is aware of the Agile structure ahead of time so they know what to expect. 
  • Make the most of team check-ins. In the beginning, it may take some time for your team to adjust to a new style of managing projects. Thankfully, the Agile methodology provides ample time for team members to connect based on specific parameters set for each meeting. Be sure to use that time to its full potential by checking in with team members, sharing wins and challenges, roadblocks, and offering solutions. 

The best way to decide if an Agile approach is the most appropriate choice for your team is to first understand the essential components of Agile project management. At its core, the Agile methodology was designed to have the maximum impact on projects with high levels of uncertainty and consistent change, such as software development projects or product development projects. 

While there’s a common misconception that Agile teams must always be software-facing, the Agile approach may not be the best method for teams dealing with very specific compliance requirements, rigid project timelines, or predetermined project outcomes.

In comparison to the highly flexible Agile method, traditional project management is based on predictability. In traditional project management:

  • Months of preparation precede any project work
  • Rigid deadlines are established ahead of time and adhered to closely
  • Team members and internal stakeholders have limited interaction with external stakeholders until the project is completed and the product is introduced for the first time
  • Feedback is introduced at the end of the project

Featured Partners: Project Management Software for Agile Teams

Lauren Good Avatar

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.

Featured Partners

Check out our library of 60+ pm books