Two of the things I find most enjoyable about my role as a delivery manager, are mentoring clients so that they become self-sufficient once the project has ended, and showcasing agile ways of working across an organisation.  This leaves the client with:

  • Enhanced capability after we have left the building
  • Secure buy-in from senior members of staff for future agile projects
  • The ability to run projects themselves in future

I’ve recently been doing exactly that on an agile team where I was working as a delivery manager, running a project. A key part of the role has involved working with a junior delivery manager and showing them how to run an agile project.

It’s always helpful to bear the following things in mind when mentoring someone in this way:

Break down and simplify the role – don’t hit them with a full list of things to do on day one, it’ll never sink in. Instead, build up an understanding over the course of the project.

Involve them in everything – ensure they are a key member of the team, involve them in all meetings and decisions the team makes, to build up their understanding of agile working and why we do things the way we do.

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” Confucius, circa 450BC

Allow them to lead where appropriate – it is important to provide opportunities for them to lead parts of the project e.g. team retrospectives in order to build up their familiarity of running these sessions.

Build up confidence – allow them to build up confidence speaking in public by allowing them to deliver parts of show-and-tells and other meetings.

Be available – always be around to answer questions they might have about the way the project is being run and the work the team is doing.

The project was also used as an agile exemplar project, highlighting the benefits of working in an agile way to senior members of the organisation.

We often find there is some nervousness among senior management about adopting this way of working. Many of our clients’ senior management feel more comfortable with the waterfall approach which they often have more experience of. In this type of situation, we find there are some consistent concerns or misconceptions about agile working that come up:
  • Waterfall working gives me a clear view of what my product or service will look like whereas agile doesn’t
  • Waterfall working provides a fixed delivery date whereas agile doesn’t
  • Waterfall working provides governance and control whereas agile working doesn’t
It’s obviously important to address this kind of challenge and allay these types of concerns. So, how did we go about this?
We made sure our work was visible, transparent and demonstrated regular progress:
  • Show-and-tells at the end of each sprint to highlight the team’s achievements in that sprint
  • Videos summarising our work in each sprint to provide updates in different formats for those who preferred to access information in this way
  • Presentations to groups of senior stakeholders

We took a deliberate “One-team approach”, co-locating on-site with members of the client team, as this is without doubt the most effective way of demonstrating how agile projects are run and leaving that understanding within the client organisation after we have left.

We were very clear to prioritise people over process, which ensured we were held together by a few agile ‘ceremonies’ to provide structure but allowed the team to express themselves and identify the main things to focus on as the project took shape.

Finally, and something that isn’t to be overlooked, we tried to make it fun – in my experience, a relaxed, happy team is usually a good team that delivers results! This obviously has the knock-on effects of allowing the team to communicate across the client organisation and highlighting the benefits of working in an agile way.

In summary, we see this kind of upskilling as a core part of our role with clients, and our team members tend to be really motivated by carrying out this type of work. If you’d like to find out more, or to discuss any projects of this nature then contact me on