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Contributed by:  Sue Knies, PMP, CSSBB

It’s hard to believe that it has been over ten years since the Agile Manifesto (http://agilemanifesto.org/) was published by 17 software developers.  And, although many people still associate agile with software development, the concept has been expanding from Agile Software Development to Agile Project Management which means that more and more project managers from a broad range of industries are using agile techniques to manage projects.

‘Manifesto’ author Jim Highsmith promotes and embraces this broader definition of agile. He believes it’s really more about “being” agile rather than “doing” agile.  He says being agile requires a level of leadership and management investment and style and that the best Project Managers demonstrate and promote facilitation, collaboration, goal setting, boundary setting, and flexibility.  Any project (regardless of industry) that faces uncertainty, complexity, volatility and risk can value from agile practices and principles (1).

With the projects I’ve been managing recently, I found myself wondering how agile I really am.  So, I decided to assess myself.  I took the 12 principles put forth as part of the original Agile Manifesto, adapted them slightly to make them “industry independent,” and then created an assessment using a scale of 1-to-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest).  My score showed me being more agile than I expected. 

Perhaps you’re wondering how agile you are as well.  I invite you to assess yourself on your beliefs along with how you perform. 

  1. My highest priority is to satisfy my customer through early and continuous delivery
    of valuable deliverables.
  2. My project team and I welcome changing requirements, even late in development.
  3. Delivering a working solution frequently, with a preference to the shorter timescale, is important.
  4. Business people and developers work together daily throughout my project.
  5. Projects are built around motivated individuals.  I give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development 
    team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. A working solution is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development.  The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, my project team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

      Total your score and see where you fit:

     46-60    Very Agile
     31-45    Somewhat Agile
     12-30    Not Very Agile

Now that you have an idea where you fit on the ‘Agile PM Scale’ and where you have the opportunity to grow, rest assured that this is not a campaign to promote a move from the sound, basic Project Management standards that we all have grown to practice and depend upon. 

In her article “What Agile Is – And What It Isn’t,” Michele Sliger (2) puts it this way:

  • Agile is NOT an excuse to stop producing documentation.  It IS a reason to examine what documentation is really needed.
  • Agile is NOT open season for ‘scope creep’.  It IS an invitation to the customer to collaborate with the team, to have a way to change requirements, to prioritize valuable features, and for the team to respond accordingly.
  • Agile is NOT about blindly following a set of “best” practices.  It IS about doing what makes sense.
  • This is my favorite 🙂 –>Agile is NOT an opportunity to eliminate planning.  It IS an opportunity to institute rolling-wave (or staged) planning, a practice documented in the PMBOK.

In summary, in order to be competitive and succeed as a business in the 21st century, we as project managers must be willing to be flexible and rapidly adapt to the conditions presented and deliver solutions in a more timely manner.  We must be agile, while balancing that flexibility and adaptability with the right level of Project Management discipline that has stood the test of time and has made us who we are.

References: 

  1. Jackson, Michelle Bowles, Agile:  A Decade In [PMI Network, 2012]
  2. Sliger, Michele, What Agile Is – And What It Isn’t [Scrum Alliance, 2012]