Posts Tagged ‘PMI Agile’

PMI Agile – Debate or Learning Opportunity?

Posted on August 10th, 2009 by Dennis Stevens  |  13 Comments »

Vasco Duarte over at Software Development Today has launched a grenade at the PMI Agile organization with his post PMI vs Agile, what is different, and why you should care.  He was responding to Lynda Bourne’s post Agile: The Great Debate. I started writing a comment that became really long so I decided to put this up as a blog post.

First, I must admit to having an advantage over Vasco in that I know Lynda Bourne. She is a talented and smart project manager who focuses on issues of engaging people in the right way. People in the Agile world would appreciate her sense of humor, empathy, and focus on treating people the right way. I don’t know Vasco. I like what he says on his blog for the most part, I see his tweets and comments on Twitter, and I think he is an intelligent experienced guy with a valuable point of view.

This conversation fascinates me for a number of reasons. First, one of the tenets of Agile is to value people and interactions over processes and tools. This manifests itself in respect for people and learning. One of the things I teach in my project conversation work is the importance of holding the other person as valid – believing what they have to say matters. Yet in this Agile vs PMI conversation there is a lot of not holding the other person in a very positive light. Another is seeking first to understand, the common approach is to point out what is wrong with the other persons world.

In her post, Lynda points out that there are three areas for discussion between PMI and Agile.

  1. How do Project Management practices differ when interacting with Agile development vs. Waterfall development?
  2. Can traditional Project Management learn from Agile?
  3. What triggers choices between operational maintenance, development and projects and waterfall vs agile techniques.

I think these are good points for traditional Project Managers to understand as they make decisions about how to support a project with an Agile software component.

Vasco took offense about two points Lynda made in the first question regarding a PM moving to Agile from Waterfall. Remember as you read this that she is writing on PMI’s website to PMP’s.

  • The need for robust change management and configuration management to track the evolution of the Agile project
  • The critical importance of developing the correct strategy and architecture at the beginning of the Agile project

Vasco says these points reflect a lack of understanding at PMI regarding Agile. He claims her explanation to PMP’s that Agile projects have a strong dependency on change management and configuration management indicates she has no understanding of Agile. However, her reference to change management is in the same sentence as one to configuration management. She is absolutely referring to code. Since many PMI managers aren’t software development manager’s they likely don’t understand the critical nature a robust CI/CM infrastructure. In fact, many “agile” projects fail to implement these and this leads to project disasters. I feel her point is completely valid and Vasco’s retort is not helpful.

Vasco then says she is asking for BUFD. She didn’t say you need a Big Up Front Design. She said you need an Architecture and a strategy for delivery. Even the link Vasco refers us to agrees with Lynda. The first slide asks, “Architecture is a heavy-weight activity, and the magic of Agile makes it unnecessary to bother with up-front design, right?” Their response is, “False.” The presenters point out that this is a common misconception even among Agilists. I believe that Vasco’s retort reflects a bias against bad PM he has faced and does not reflect the validity of Lynda’s post.

Agile (Vasco refers specifically to Scrum) is about Software Development. In most organizations, software development is about 25% of the solution. People, processes, and management practices have to be addressed as well. And not just within the development and delivery of software, but across the entire organization. Project Management deals with this bigger world. The big opportunity is to learn from Agile how to align with and improve delivery outside of software and how to support Agile so the development team can deliver value to the organization with a minimal amount of friction.

I am not suggesting that PMI and all PMP’s have a clear understanding of Agile and how to implement it. I agree that there is a lot of discussion that needs to be held to make the two perspectives meet. I do think it is important that the perspectives meet. PMI is reaching out to the Agile community. They are making an attempt to understand and be understood. There is also a real need for us to bring these areas together in a way that drives value through our businesses.