When PMI Introduced the Elephant – Part 1

When PMI Introduced the Elephant – Part 1

Last October I entered the Gaylord National with a little trepidation.  The PMI North American Congress was taking place and I found out that several people I admire in the Agile space were going to be attending and speaking.  Leading up to the major PMI event, I was hearing a lot of chatter about these “heretics” who were going to be presenting.  In Washington DC, the PMP was king and few in the Federal space wanted to hear anything about adaptive planning, continuous elaboration, or focusing on delivering value to the customer.  Project Managers were expected to predict the future, define process and then make damn sure you followed it, regardless if anything ever got delivered.  So, I was very much surprised as I walked through the Gaylord and noticed poster after poster, display after display.  “Are you Agile?”

Crossing The ChasmEvery Agile session I attended, PMI Vice President of Information Technology, Frank Schettini introduced the speaker and told the audience that he leads the team that is responsible for delivering value to PMI’s members, volunteer leaders, certification holders and staff through innovative and reliable technology solutions. He said that he was a strong supporter of the Agile Community and so was PMI.

Though the audience at one of the first Agile sessions was almost hostile towards the presenters, by the time Michele Sliger gave the final session on the final day, there was buzz in the halls of the Gaylord about how “this Agile thing” had taken the conference by storm.

While I was there at the conference, I was privately asked if I would be willing to assist PMI with the creation of an Agile certification.  I was very apprehensive, at first.  I didn’t want PMI “hijacking” Agile.  I was assured that was not the case.  I discovered those I respected most in the industry were already hard at work, making sure it was done right.

Agile was about to cross the chasm and PMI was going to make sure we made it to the other side.

But first, introductions were in order.


3 Replies to “When PMI Introduced the Elephant – Part 1”

  1. I’d be very reluctant to do this – frankly, having the PMI establishing an agile certification is a fox and henhouse scenario.  More to the point, as Robert Martin observed last year in his essay “What Killed Waterfall Could Kill Agile”, agile certifications create a false set of expectations along with introducing distortions into the marketplace.  At best, it enables elitism; at worst, it begins to erode confidence:
    “[T]he vast majority of CSMs have a project
    management background.  In essence they
    have added CSM to the PMBOK.  They have become
    CSMs so that they have the authority to manage
    Scrum teams.  This was never the intent…
    The elitism is back, and it’s growing.  More courses with certifications are
    available, and even more are envisioned. 
    Other training companies are offering their own certifications.  After all, the lure of elitism is a great moneymaker.  The snowball is rolling down the mountain,
    and getting bigger with each turn. 

    And when the revolution comes… ?

    I can only hope that when Scrum goes down
    it doesn’t take the whole Agile movement with it.”

    Let’s hope this isn’t the canary in the coalmine, because everything I’ve observed this year leads me to believe it is.

    1. Chris, I’ve had several people mirror your concerns. This definitely has felt like a fox in a henhouse. But my goal for the last few years was to introduce Agile fundamentals to the PMI community. I know many are wringing their hands with the idea of the ACP certification, with the financial opportunities being so wide open. The PMP ecosystem makes me want to pull my hair out. It brings out the worst in people. Guaranteeing people pass that exam or requiring that they have that certification does not ensure more value is delivered or success realized. Motivation is twisted into wanting a slip of paper or a line on a resume, not about making things better or improving our craft.

      Because the Agile Alliance never stepped in and created it’s own base-level certification, can we all blame PMI for doing this? This certainly fits with PMI’s Modus Operandi. Let’s all hope for the best and expect the worst.

      1. Glad to hear you’re on the same page.

        Re: AA not creating a “baseline” cert creating opportunity for PMI. I think expressly /not/ creating a cert was the original intent, but then Schwaber started the Scrum Alliance and from there a cert process was started to evangelize Scrum which got completely out-of-control, contributing to a multitude of CSMs and CSPs and even trainers who haven’t the foggiest what they’re doing. This situation led Fowler to comment that we now have “flaccid Scrum” as a result.

        My concern, and I think you understand this, is that we’re getting close to a tipping point where a lot of damage will be done. IMHO, it may be better not to have certifications as we know them, but something more akin to a diploma. It has to set the right expectations with business that this is not a traditional management role – it has a whole other set of skills and objectives and that you just don’t buy a CSM or a PSM, install and presto! Instant agility.

        Good luck and Godspeed. Keep us posted.


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