Agile Project Management

The case for agile methodologies in formal project management and non-software focused organizations is an evolving one.  There is still a reactionary attitude by many PMPs that agile development is uncontrollable or otherwise at odds with PMI’s disciplined, structured approach to planning.  A more balanced response is often to consider whether and how the two methods can coexist.  I’ll take that a step further to submit that many of the methods of formal project management are actually agile already; they just don’t think of it that way.

A fundamental principle of professional project management is iterations.  A project manager should plan the pieces of the project that are known, to the extent that is possible and reasonable, and leave the rest only loosely defined.  As more stakeholders are consulted, more information about things like quality requirements, risks, and resources are considered, planning is updated.  Even after the plan is defined and approved, changes remain welcome in formal project management.  Strategies, designs, and deliverables are progressively elaborated using rolling wave planning.  Within the project, processes and methods are continuously evaluated for opportunities to improve efficiency and deliver more value.  Baselines are constantly measured and adjustments are made in-flight, to correct variances discovered.  Systems are put in place to accommodate change requests.  This all sounds fairly agile, doesn’t it?

Functional organizations as well are adopting agile processes.  A manager told me recently, she was implementing a disciplined approach to continuously exchange feedback, status, and goals on her team to avoid surprises later.  They planned to ask the questions, “What I have done recently? What am I planning to do next?  What may interfere with my goals?”  This might be unsurprising if she were leading an agile software group, but she was the director of human resources and had never heard of agile development.  The approach to communicate status and plans on a frequent, organized basis may have been taken directly from a Scrum meeting format, but she was excited about a more general application of the same flexibility advantages afforded to engineering teams.  This proactive approach to appraisal management  staff is now frequently championed.

I hear a recurring theme from management professionals working outside of software development: “We’d prefer to make corrections early and more frequently to improve our responsiveness and our ability to deliver on our commitments.”  Large organizations, technical and not, are increasing adopting agile methods to deliver results, without surprises.

2 comments to Agile Project Management

  • Piyush V Dubey

    Hi Mark,

    I am thankful to you. I used your site for revision before my PMP certification and it helped me clear confusions before certification. I completed my PMP on 30/08/2011.

    Thanks a lot. your site was contributed a lot to my confidence in the exam.


  • mark

    Very cool of you to say Piyush and congratulation on your new certification!


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