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Agile with everything

This blog originally appeared on the APM web site and was also posted as discussions on LinkedIn, in both the APM and Praxis groups. Follow these links to see the extensive debate that followed on from the article.

Is it just me, or is the Agile bandwagon getting a bit out of control? Don’t get me wrong, I think Agile thinking has a lot going for it and it’s a valuable addition to the project management toolbox and the skill set of project managers.

I’m no great expert in all things Agile, but it seems to me that the hype has led to the word ‘Agile’ being prefixed to just about anything in an attempt to make it more saleable. We started off with Agile Development, which I understand and appreciate as a highly iterative, collaborative and often effective way of developing software applications. Like all new ideas, Agile attracted evangelists who see it as the one true path and panacea to all that is wrong with the dreaded ‘waterfall’ approach.

We fairly quickly moved on to ‘Agile Project Management’ - although many people warn that Agile is a development process not a project management process.

Having established ‘Agile Project Management’ there was clearly need to move on to the next challenge – ‘Agile Programme Management’. Why stop there? We are now seeing the emergence of ‘Agile Portfolio Management’ and ‘Agile Governance’. Since, some Agile evangelists maintain that in a true Agile environment, you don’t need a project manager at all then presumably this means there is no need for programme and portfolio managers any more either.

Just about every project management technique seems to be getting an Agile makeover. There are plenty of organisations promoting their newly created processes for ‘Agile Risk Management’, ‘Agile Value Management’ and even ‘Agile Earned Value Management’, to name but three.

I know I’m taking a big risk, sticking my head above the parapet on this one, so I need to repeat – Agile Development has a lot going for it and I can see its benefits. The danger is that if we push the idea too far, it loses credibility when it doesn’t solve everyone’s problems at a stroke. I’ve seen it happen too often in project management over the years – the latest big idea comes along only to be superseded by the next big idea a few years later. The thing about bandwagons is that once too many people climb aboard – the axle breaks.

My plea to the evangelistic arm of the Agile fraternity would be “curb your enthusiasm”. Seek to integrate the ideas of Agile with everything that already works, present it as another string to the project manager’s bow and not something that will sweep all before it in a grand revolution.

That’s the secret to embedding all that is good about Agile in the professional culture of project management.

 

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Agile with everything

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