Agile Project Management and AWP
Far from being competing philosophies, Agile and Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) have more in common than many people realize.
At its simplest, the comparison can be focused on two key areas:
1) Break the work down into manageable pieces
2) Learn, adapt, and develop
For the first part, the similarity should be striking. In AWP planning there is often discussion about “Eating the elephant one bite at a time”. There is general recognition that, particularly in complex modern capital projects, it is very hard to complete the work scope by only viewing it from a high level. It is necessary to get ‘into the weeds’, but that can also be an area where people get lost and overwhelmed.
For AWP, the solution to this is the ability to break the work scope into discrete packages, each with set dates and deliverables, that can be assigned to specified people for completion. This segmentation helps the project execution team stay focused on their area of influence, and provides granular progress at the detailed level which can be ‘rolled up’ to the overall scope.
The most common example is the use of Installation Work Packages (IWPs) in the field. Each crew will work on a single IWP at any time. This package will be created in advance by a Workface Planner, who is responsible for the removal of relevant constraints by the time the package is issued to the field, to ensure the work can be completed from start to finish without interruption.
Similarly, Agile methods use the concept of short-term development steps, known as “Sprints”, to break a larger scope into smaller pieces, prioritize certain elements to create a series of execution steps, and then assign those steps to individuals or teams to carry out. By breaking the work into smaller pieces, the team performing the scope can focus on the critical area, but still, contribute to the larger overall development.
The other key similarity is the idea that you may not get it right the first time. This means that anyone executing AWP should be open to the possibility of learning and adapting their processes to account for lessons learned and feedback. This is particularly true in the early stages of your AWP implementation journey when your organizational AWP maturity will be low and the chances of doing things wrong (or at least in a less than optimal way) are high.
The key advice we tell people when it comes to the AWP journey is to start – you won’t get to AWP maturity without taking the first step. Recognize that mistakes will be made, that lessons will be learned, and ensure that your processes are adaptable so your next implementation doesn’t repeat the same mistakes.
Similarly, Agile focuses on working on a solution, collaborating between stakeholders, and responding to a change. The need to be adaptable (quite literally “agile”) is baked into the process, which promotes course correction as a more effective solution.
These two programs are not competing, but they are also not necessarily tied. You can employ Agile concepts in project management without using AWP, and vice versa. One of the easiest places to start is by using Agile methods for the digitalization of some key existing project processes like action and deliverable tracking, or Requests For Information (RFIs). O3’s ONTarget solution can transform these common project practices into a collaborative, action-driven process that will provide immediate benefits for the project team through all phases.