Agile with everything

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Is it just me, or is the agile bandwagon getting a bit out of control? Dont get me wrong, I think agile thinking has a lot going for it and its a valuable addition to the project management toolbox and the skill set of project managers.

Im 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 dont 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 Im 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 doesnt solve everyones problems at a stroke. Ive seen it happen too often in project management over the years the latest big idea comes along only to be superseded by the next big idea a few years later.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 managers bow and not something that will sweep all before it in a grand revolution.

Thats the secret to embedding all that is good about agile in the professional culture of project management.

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Posted by Adrian Dooley on 7th Nov 2014

About the Author
Originally a construction project manager, I became involved in the development of project planning software for PC's in the early 1980's. In 1984 I set up a training and consultancy company, The Projects Group, and ran that until its sale in 2008. I was a founder member of Project Manager Today Magazine and Project Management Exhibitions Ltd. From 1996 to 2000, I served on the APM Council. During that period I was the Head of Professional Development and was appointed to the Board of APM Group Ltd. I am now semi-retired but remain on the Board of APM Group. I was heavily involved in the development of the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge and have drawn on that experience to create an integrated framework for P3 management at www.praxisframework.org.

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