The words “agile project management” are being used in the industry to describe a new approach to how project management is conducted. The industry and company leaders need to fully understand how project managers can be brought into the agile world to ensure cohesion between these two disciplines.
Where does project management stand today?
The explosion of agile has brought project management to a crossroads. Today’s project managers are grappling with the fact that years of experience and training have left them with a need to adapt to more agile philosophies, or else be thought of as dinosaurs. The advent of the new Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) from PMI has shown that PMI recognizes the need to incorporate more agile aspects into the A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). But in many organizations, project management is either looked at as a necessary cost center or an area where resources can be cut.
Can agile and project management co-exist?
The short answer to the previous question is yes, but the project manager of today must realize one thing: The way to survive and thrive in a company is to adapt. The pace of technology and change is not rapid, but frenetic. The project manager that adapts to agile philosophies realizes that they must take the best of PMBOK® Guide and agile and come forth with a workable solution for their company.
The new agile project manager realizes that stability and stagnation are things of the past, and they must now take the project management skills they’ve learned and transform themselves into ScrumMasters. The agile project manager can also be a vital cog in ensuring they become agile program or portfolio managers. The agile program or portfolio manager plays a key role in making sure multiple Scrum teams communicate on the combined deliverables being produced.
The communication of agile teams is a troublesome aspect of agile, and unless a company fully leverages scaled agile, it will struggle to ensure a coordinated vision. The roles previously described give new and exciting options for the project manager to bring a refreshed agile project management discipline to its company.
The real role of the agile project manager: Was it always there?
At their heart, the agile project manager is a change agent. They must mentor, teach and preach the idea that change is a law of nature and that organizations must not shy away from it, but fully embrace it.
The one aspect of “good” agile is the mantra of continuous improvement. With the dismal structure and agility of companies today, attempting to implement disciplined continuous improvement takes a great deal of courage. The application of adaptable, realistic project management practices can be thought of as a base for the agile project manager.
The deployment of “good” agile also requires organizational changes, sometimes major, to ensure the agile transformation process works. These underlying structural changes in companies need a champion, and this is where the agile project manager must take the lead. The agile project manager is uniquely positioned to advocate, manage and lead changes as they have an understanding of the organization and what needs to be done in order to become more efficient.
So what now?
The project manager should first realize the need for change and embrace the role they have as the lead change agent. But methodologies of today are just that--methodologies. The truly successful project managers keep one eye on the current environment and one eye on the future. The new agile project manager will take whatever tool or methodology is available and should not be a purist, as the adherence to purity will doom the agile project manager.
This ability to adapt in agile—and the new roles that should be embraced—will hopefully make project managers realize that they’re in charge of their destiny and should seize the day.