VOICES ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Agile is emerging as the new weapon in the battle against the economic slump.
BY JESSE FEWELL, CST, PMP
What used to be a buzzword is quickly evolving into a competitive advantage. For almost a decade now, the agile
movement has garnered much attention for individual project successes in specialized project
domains such as software development.
Now the economy is sparking steady
growth in agile adoption across sectors.
Around the world, organizations are facing
the new reality that delivering on-schedule
and on-budget is no longer enough to
stay competitive. Sponsors aren’t asking,
“What does it take to implement this
scope?” These days it’s, “What can I
get for this fixed budget?” Project
managers, in turn, are being forced
At the same time, the individual
successes of agile have become much more frequent and much larger in scale. In the last two years, the sin-gle-most discussed topic among agile practitioners has been
how to scale this more competitive management approach
across all departments and all skill sets in the enterprise.
But what is agile, really? Consultants and trainers
will tout their pet method as the true example of the
ideal process. Articles and blogs ramble on about funny
terms like “sprints,” “scrums,” “spikes,” and “stories.” And
although the best place to start is the Agile Manifesto, I’d
like to offer two key areas to focus on.
First, a project leader must have a ruth-
less commitment to value delivery over
performance to plan. No longer can you
be content to deliver your full scope by
the final deadline. Instead, deliver the
highest risk and/or highest value require-
ment as soon as possible. Then, engage
the sponsor to evaluate the deliverable
and reprioritize what should be the next
high-risk/high-value item to be delivered. As each priority
is delivered, the sponsor is given permission to reprioritize
or replace the remaining scope.
Although this kind of living project plan
is compatible with best practices we’ve learned
in the classroom, it’s certainly not how things
are generally done. We’re told that a project
plan must endure an extensive change-management process to reflect the latest shifts
in business needs. Breaking the project up
into vertical slices like this maximizes ROI.
Second, a project leader must create high-performing teams. Consider that the entire
value of a project is generated not by the project
manager, but by the project team. As project
managers, we’ve been trained to engage in
“monitoring and controlling” the team to
ensure project results. What if we invested all our energy into accelerating and
empowering the team?
We’ve been trained to perform lessons
learned at the closeout of a project. What if
we conducted lessons learned in monthly meetings and
then held the team accountable for implementing those
lessons right away? The only way to aggressively deliver on
about the PMI
of Practice at
SPEAK UP—BUT LOSE THE JARGON
Agile continues to be a hot topic on the blog.
Here’s what Bob Fischer, a principal consultant
at Enagility, had to say about the role of agile
Projects where there is a great deal of uncertainty
regarding what you are going to build and how
you are going to build it are the best candidates
for agile. I've been a very successful agile
advocate, and I start by understanding the nature
of the projects people are working on and what
they are struggling with. I use that to make
recommendations. I completely agree that agile
advocates need to speak to their audience's needs,
not agile jargon.
>>For more Voices on Project Management,
check out the blog at PMI.org/voices.