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Agile Project Management: The Natural Way

In a recent coment I wrote, “AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT has been a topic at the [PMI] conference. Indeed, I believe there were 2-3 presentations on this very topic. For example, Michele Sliger, co-author of the newly published and excellent book “The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility (Agile Software Development Series)”, talked about Agile Project Management.

In addition, agile project management was referenced in many other presentations.

I want to go a step further and state that agile project management is the natural way of effective project management.   There are very good reasons for this hypthesis to be true.  Textbooks suggest that project life cycles are linear.  This means that a project evolves along a pre-defined path:  initation – planning – executing – monitor & control – closeout.  This, for example, is what the PMBOK suggests.  Unfortunately, reality is more complex.  Indeed I have not seen a single project which has strictly followed this sequence.  Instead, a project goes from one phase to another and may jump back or forth.  Tom Johns of Business Management Consultants illustrated this in his presentation “The Art of Project Management (c) Complexity” at the PMI Global Congress 2008 in Denver.

I believe that every effective project manager has to be familiar with agile project management to survive, to cope with unexpected changes without losing control.

Regarding the various approaches of agile, let it be Scrum, XP, RUP, etc., it doesn’t matter.  As a matter of fact my experience shows that a hyprid approach may work best.  It has to be customized to the respective project environment and organization.  Strictly following a doctrine without looking left or right is narrow minded and one-dimensional.  It neglects the reality of complexity we are living in.  If doing so, you may be better off or at as well of following a traditional, linear waterfall approach thinking this may be good, structured project management.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Any model, may it be a waterfall or agile approach, serves as a guideline.  The art of project management is to identify and use simple rules which help constitute guidelines for effective and efficient project work which yield tangible results which are in sync with the vision and objectives of the project and the project organization.

Posted in: PMI Congress Denver 10'08, Project Management

Leave a Comment (3) ↓


  1. PM Hut October 29, 2008

    Thanks a lot for this post and for addressing my comment.

    Most Project Managers using waterfall prejudicely claim the following:

    – Agile projects are never finished because of constant changes
    – The agile methodology expects developers to also act as Project Managers.

    I have also to say, for my part, that Waterfall is not fully linear, take a look at this article: the project life cycle, a definition, which is about the PMI project life cycle.

  2. thomasjuli October 30, 2008

    It is true that waterfall advocates have the above mentioned prejudices about the agile approach. Indeed, those are prejudices based on incomplete information. Fact is that agile projects have probably a higher success rate of being finished on time and in budget than regular waterfall projects. Most importantly they are better aligned with business objectives of the company / org. Especially long waterfall projects have a hard time in this alignment.
    Regarding the second claim that developers have to act as project managers it is simply false. Developers are responsible for their work as it should be. Their responsibility may be greater than in waterfall projects. However, greater responsibility or shall we say greater identification with their own work is a prerequisite for success. For team work to be effective every team member needs to know her/his role and responsibility to begin with. By creating an open learning environment synergy effects become possible leading to effective team work. This holds true regardless of the approach, waterfall or agile. My experience shows that agile constitutes a better starting point though.

    Last but not least, is the waterfall approach linear or not. It is linear. When you have to go back to the planning phase in complex projects to replan and you have to do this more than once, you basically follow an agile RUP approach.
    This implies that the more you add dynamic elements to a waterfall approach the more you are actually following an agile approach. You may not call it “agile” but fact is, it is.

  3. Rakesh Chandra Goyal September 25, 2009


    Firstly Project Management is all about managing activities during the life cycle of the project i.e. from start (project initiation) till end (project closure). The project can be for any domain/industry. Project Life Cycle hence can be independent of the methodolgy of executing the project activities.

    In case of software development project the activities are governed by the SDLC. Agile defines one of the SDLC and definitely Agile (ways) has some unique advantages.

    Waterfall is actually visible in all the methodologies (SDLC) because requirement-design-development-verification are intrinsic steps and these are also visible while executing development for one or the set of story (card).

    This is how I personally feel.

    Regards rcgoyal@gmail.com; goyalrak@aol.com


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