Most construction teams are familiar with the waterfall method of project management. Waterfall processes are linear which means quality verification and testing occur once the project is finalized and complete.
Agile is a very different project management approach. Where waterfall is sequential, Agile is iterative, cyclical, and collaborative. Agile is best understood not as a methodology but rather as an approach. It developed as a set of rules and principles for software development and has since become popular in multiple industries, including Agile’s application in construction.
This article aims to show how Agile can be applied to construction projects, the pros and cons of doing so, and to show some examples of how this could look in Teamhood.
How is Agile applicable to construction?
You can apply Agile project management to almost any large-scale project in any industry, including construction. This is possible because, in its essence, Agile is a set of rules and practices aimed at changing the working environment and the goals of the team. It does not prescribe specific rules on how work should be executed but rather puts the team into the right mindset.
By working with the client and the product at the forefront, teams can test the quality of products and improve the processes they go through. This makes any construction project flexible and adaptable during construction.
Agile construction management practices impact the planning, design, and pre-construction phases before the actual building work begins. Agile work teams will use sketches, site plans, and other tools to collect initial client feedback quickly. This helps to ensure that they have properly understood the client’s requirements.
For instance, in the planning phase, the team uses initial sketches and site plans to quickly understand the client’s needs. This agile approach ensures that the project aligns with the client’s vision early on, reducing the risk of costly changes later in the construction process. This rapid feedback loop enables teams to adapt to changes early in the process when making such changes is cheaper and easier.
Benefits of Agile construction
An Agile construction approach can help you deliver your project in a timely, safe manner within budget by ensuring all changes are communicated at the planning and pre-construction stages of a project.
1. Increased collaboration between stakeholders
Agile allows you to collect client and worker input – at least in the planning and design stages. This collaboration between stakeholders helps ensure everyone is on the same page. In turn, this helps to minimize the chances of any disruptions during construction.
2. Improved communication
Using Agile methodologies can help encourage feedback, transparency, and rapid communication between stakeholders. This enhances communication, the visibility of processes, and the ability of the project team to adapt to emerging issues.
3. Visualizing workflow to uncover and resolve potential obstacles
Construction teams often struggle to properly track their processes from concept to execution. Using an Agile methodology such as Kanban would help with this. That’s because one of the six core Kanban practices is to visualize the workflow.
By using Kanban boards, construction teams can visualize the stages of their workflow. This would allow teams to spot and uncover any emerging issues and constraints, along with the chance to reduce waste.
4. Tracking progress vs project milestones
Agile construction teams can use Kanban to track the execution of the construction work itself and ensure it matches the initial project milestones by monitoring the same items in a Gantt view. In Teamhood, the teams can easily switch between Kanban and Gantt views and compare the initial plan with the actual status.
5. Spotting and resolving bottlenecks
Using Agile metrics reports can also help you to see at a glance whether tasks are being worked on at too fast or too low a rate. This can help to reveal bottlenecks, which will help them to optimize the construction process.
Examples of how Agile construction application
The construction roadmap
The construction roadmap is a high-level sequence of construction execution activities. Teams develop a series of construction zones – geographic work areas with clearly defined boundaries and scope requirements. The sequence of execution is based on client priorities and commissioning requirements. This sequencing is worked out collaboratively with the client to ensure that the proposed sequence suits their needs.
Project sequencing plans
These are more granular deliverables that outline the priority completion dates of defined scopes of work. These scopes of work will differ depending on the stage of the project, from design to procurement to construction. Each stage needs a separate sequencing plan with separate scopes of work. If a change is required in one sequencing plan, teams must review and update all other sequencing plans accordingly. This shows how early stakeholder alignment and collaboration are key to the success of an Agile approach.
The next step in an Agile workflow is Sprint or iteration planning. This highly collaborative activity is designed to break down, list, and sequence work activities to create the most value for the client.
The key to effective Sprint planning is ensuring that the right people are involved. During design, this would include the area lead (product owner), the discipline lead (scrum master), and team architects/engineers. During construction, the right people are the area superintendent or construction manager (product owner), the supervisor (scrum master), and those responsible for ensuring work completion (foremen/lead hands).
These individuals will work together to estimate work, prioritize activities, and develop effective and achievable Sprint plans.
Implementing Agile construction management for your projects
As an increasingly popular Agile methodology with several potential benefits for construction teams, Kanban is a great way to improve project planning, communication, and collaboration. Hopefully, this blog has been a useful introduction to the benefits of Agile as an approach and Kanban as a practical tool to incorporate Agile practices into your projects.
You should now be able to visualize how Kanban could be useful in helping to manage your workflow effectively. But this blog only scratches the surface of Kanban and what it can do.
Watch our video introduction to Kanban boards below, or browse our rapidly expanding Kanban content library.
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.