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Adding Agile to the Mix: How Much Is Enough?

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as Co-CEO of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

New methodologies are constantly being introduced into the business world: some are buzzwords or quickly fading "silver bullets," while some truly change the way we work. It can be hard to gauge the potential value, or to know which ones are going to stick. A few years ago, Agile methods were looked upon with some skepticism by many in the project management field, as being somewhat of a fad or at least, only applicable to a narrow range of project types or industries. 

Enter the new PMBOK© Guide, Sixth Edition. More than any other influence, the standard's emphasis on Agile and adaptive methods will be a key driver in mainstreaming these techniques. The standard both reflects the reality that Agile is getting noticed and adopted by most organizations in some way, and drives its further adoption. The concurrent issue of the Agile Practice Guide underscores this trend.

The way this topic is covered in the new standard also stresses that choosing a methodology doesn’t have to be a black or white issue.  You can become one of the new “Adaptive Organizations” who is aligning methodologies, processes, and tools to your people and how they work, rather than forcing your employees into a specific methodology.  Adopting your processes and tools in a flexible and dynamic way is proving to be quite effective.  Treating each project uniquely, and not having a pre-determined way to manage it is key. You may want to consider iterative planning and flexibility over a traditional structure and methodology. So much will depend on the type of project.

Even the way we manage people on projects is changing in organizations.  There is more autonomy for teams and individuals, with just enough planning and reporting and much more collaboration.  But autonomy does not come without responsibility and a high level of commitment.  And for most organizations, this takes a certain amount of courage! There is less of a “control and command” and more or a “coaching” environment.  The uncertainty that comes with less planning should be viewed as an opportunity to achieve more value rather than just focusing on driving compliance to a plan.  While the goal of most project management is to decrease time to market and reduce cost, this new way of adaptive management fosters more collaboration, broadens ownership and accountability for results.

This “adaptive project management” should be viewed as a supplemental method to meet a unique need.  There may be projects where other methods are more effective.  As a project manager, you should be informed on multiple methods of management and apply them appropriately to the type of project.  The adaptive project manager requires even greater skill and experience, not less.  Don’t be afraid of this change … embrace it … after all, aren’t project managers really change agents?

Karen says:

And just think - I authored a book on this very topic that the CBP published for PM Solutions back in 2008!

Posted on March 27, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin says:

Yes, Karen ... one of the many topics on which we have been ahead of our time! Also more recently, I’d like to point readers to your great chapter on the topic in the AMA Handbook of PM.

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 10:29 am

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