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Project Management: How to Build Links and Tiers Into Your Projects

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/27/2013

Incorporating Agile methods often puts the project manager in the role of observer. Iterations or time boxes are assigned and the work begins. You can improve your project management by building links and tiers into your projects and losing the observer role.

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    Why You Need Links and Tiers

    Chain Link Detail by Photoplasia 

    Managers who implement Agile methods into their projects often generate effective results. Team members enjoy the cross-functional, self-organizing composition without too much hierarchy or interference once roles are assigned. It is important as the project leader to learn how to build links and tiers into your projects in subtle yet effective ways to ensure project success.

    What are links and tiers and why do you need them? Some critics of the Agile methodology point out its lack of structure and documentation which can lead to scope creep. Naysayers warn that iterations are often repeated or cross-developed. Without accountable links and tiers, using the Agile method can be expensive to the client or the company and even make a project fail.

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    Building Links and Tiers

    Think about your project. Using Agile methodology requires you follow these steps:

    1. Project Initiation - Meet, discuss, and build teams
    2. Repeatable - Outline each process to be performed
    3. Defined - Define iterations, assign teams
    4. Managed - Evaluate the process
    5. Optimize - Ask if the process can be improved

    Most of these stages do require links and tiers. Think of links as the human element or assigned team members who will be responsible for keeping workboxes in place, timely, and organized, while discouraging duplication; a facilitator, so to speak. Tiers, on the other hand, are defined before the project as either acceptable, changeable, or sometimes a risk.

    Facilitators or links report to the project manager. Tiers should be assigned at your project initiation meeting along with links to oversee them, report them, and help keep iterations defined. Simply jumping into the Agile method with no links or tiers of risk can lead to chaos.

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    Making Links and Tiers Effective

    For your links or facilitators to effectively identify tier level problems within the project, don't wait until the "managed" stage to discuss them. Use your role as project leader to hold regular meetings with your facilitators to discuss the project's progress. Agile methodology should not give free range with no clear accountability. Nor should the project leader wait until the managed stage to discuss or hear about duplications or ineffective cross-production that leads to higher project costs.

    Using facilitators to help you initially define tiers is an expense, but an expense you need if you utilize Agile methods in your projects. Facilitators should be held accountable for reporting, documenting change, and initiating change control processes under direction and leadership from the project manager.

    Using the Agile method doesn't mean project leaders sit back after the project initiation meeting and wait until it's time to manage progress deep into the project. Many team members new to the Agile method and its cross-functioning, self-organizing theme are often lost. Good project leaders or, as some Agile experts call them, project servants have to recognize incompatibility and tier breakdown, as well as leading the group effort through recommendations and meetings with their links or facilitators.

    Choose facilitators that are reliable, strong, and steadfast as your links. Keep set meeting dates; however, enlist the possibility of unscheduled meetings and give your facilitators power to determine when they are needed. Define your tiers, introduce your facilitators, and assure your team facilitators are not links to report ineffective progress or evaluate individual performance.

    For more information on using Agile methods in project management, Bright Hub PM offers this link to A Project Manager's Survival Guide to Going Agile.

    Good project management means learning how to build links and tiers into your projects initially with clear definitions on who are the links and how tier issues will be reported. Learn more about tiers in Agile project management by reading Josie Borlongan's article, Business Continuity Plan and Tier Level.

    Photo Credit: Chain Link Detail by Photoplasia

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