Project Management and the Millennial Generation: Why Agile Works

Project Management and the Millennial Generation: Why Agile Works
Page content

A Mach Speed Intro to Agile

The Agile model was originally used for development of software since it relied on “iterations” (or sprints, depending on your interpretation), which were quick (several week) “sub-projects” that were a part of the whole project.

These iterations are usually composed of daily meetings with three simple questions: what did you do yesterday; what will you do today; and what are the roadblocks preventing you from your present course.

The Agile model is based on time estimation (usually completed during specific meetings with different tools, including my favorite: the Fibonacci sequence), and then tracked through a series of charts, some of which are called “burn-down” or “burn-up” charts which track what has been done and what needs to be done.

This abridged version of the Agile project management approach is enough to translate this model into a working process for millennials.

Personal Profile - Millennials

Millennials have some specific characteristics. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials:

  • Are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults.
  • Are less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.
  • Embrace multiple modes of self-expression (approximately 75 percent have social networking accounts and 20 percent have posted videos of themselves online).
  • Are relatively private (surprise!), with over 70 percent placing privacy restrictions on their social networking sites.
  • Are careful with dealing with people, but trust government more than their parents do (speaking of parents, about 60 percent have been raised by both parents).
  • Respect their elders, especially in work ethic and moral values.

Given that profile, what we want to focus this article on addressing is their attitude toward work, specifically their current jobs.

Business Profile - Millennials

According to the Ivey Business Journal, the millennial generation is noted for a few business characteristics:

  • They have high self-expectations
  • They prefer to work in teams
  • They want to see results from their work
  • They want work-life balance

Let’s take a few of these and associate them with the Agile project process. First, working in a team is one of the focal points of Agile. The team meets daily, it arrives jointly at a time and cost estimate, and it finishes iterations (or sprints) in an orderly fashion. Although the classic project management process does not necessarily involve teams, the Agile depends on it.

Second, the millennial likes to see results of their work. Agile provides a ready-made “results-oriented” process through the iterations. In this way, the project team can see results in a few weeks rather than six months to a year. In this way, what the project team sees is a result from each iteration, and sees that result fed into other results. Again, the Agile project management model seems to fulfill the millennial’s desires.

What about work-life balance? In this case, the very estimate from the project team determines the natural breaks to the project, as well as the work rhythm. In this case, the work-life balance can be attained from maintaining the appropriate time estimates (“burn down rate”) from the Agile iterations. In essence, the millennial, who likes to work in a team, can now through the team determine their work life balance.

The hardest one to translate to the Agile model is the “high self-expectations.” The Agile process provides for a team estimate and each of those estimates is based upon team performance. As long as the individual performs to their abilities, then the team should succeed and attain the appropriate project timing.

The hard part about this one are the many “unknowns” that will undoubtedly affect the millennial’s expectations, but should not be attributed to them. For instance, if a member of the project team gets sick and that person’s work must be completed in order for the millennial to start their work (or complete that work), through no fault of their own the millennial will fail to meet the timeline. This is not a factor of poor performance but a factor of not allocating risk for project team illness or absence. This is something that can be adjusted through good risk management – not the topic of this article.

Personal Profile

Now that we have tackled the many business profile characteristics of the millennial, what about the personal profiles? Each of these is extremely favorable to the Agile project process. Since the millennial is used to diversity, this will be make him adjustable to international teams, which may be the norm in the future and the short iterations help immensely.

Since millennials are tech savvy and used to social networking, the Agile approach is favorable, as there are many times when virtual teams are used to complete a project and the use of social network applications would be a great background to conduct team meetings.

In order to summarize Agile to the Millennial Mentality, this table should help to delineate how Agile can help the Millennial’s in their project roles.