When PMI Introduced the Elephant – Part 2

When PMI Introduced the Elephant – Part 2

In just a few weeks, I will be speaking at an upcoming (sold out) Agile conference here in Washington D.C.  It’s unfortunate that I had to decide between going to the PMI North American Congress and speaking at the AgileDC event.  The events are happening the same week.  I had to decide if I wanted to speak or if I wanted to just attend.

The title of my talk at AgileDC is “When PMI introduced the elephant in the room”.  Let’s define that.  We’re talking about an important and obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn’t discussed, as such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable.  That elephant, of course, is the mainstream adoption of Agile.  Many of us saw the momentum of agile practices growing.  And I think just as many out there have tried to ignore it, misrepresent it, or dismiss it.  Though it took 10 years, I see PMI’s move to formally embrace Agile, with its own Agile certification, as a sign we’re about to cross the chasm.  The PMI wouldn’t do this if they didn’t see market trends supporting it.  With the PMI endorsement, Agile will be more widely used, more openly adopted…and yes, abused.

But I’m not here to rain on PMI’s parade.  I take my hat off to the PMI leadership, the PMI Agile Community of Practice leadership, and the informal Agile luminaries we all know in the industry.  I know there are people who are not very happy with the idea of PMI being the organization to release a comprehensive Agile exam.  Like it not, someone has to do it!  Agile needs something that will motivate people to accept it as a legitimate alternative (or primary choice) and leverage it.  Though not every project environment appears to be conducive to what the Agile Alliance or the Scrum Alliance offer, they seem to be more receptive when the PMI offers it.  In the U.S. market, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification has reached a point in the adoption curve whereby if you are a Project Manager and don’t have it, you are at a disadvantage.  It has reached such a fever pitch that even people who are not Project Managers (by trade) are finding ways to get the certification.  People are believing certifications will make them more marketable and better managers or leaders.  PMI is merely capitalizing on that belief, with the introduction of the Agile Certified Practitioner certification.  A certification that is not easy to get, immediately has a perception of value.

When you think of PMI, what do you think of?

Processes and tools?
Comprehensive documentation?
Contract negotiation?
Following a plan?

PMI is the world’s largest project management member association, representing more than half a million practitioners in more than 185 countries. As a global thought leader and knowledge resource, PMI advances the profession through its global standards and credentials, collaborative chapters and virtual communities and academic research.

When you think of Agile, what do you think of?

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

The authors of the Agile Manifesto wrote “We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.”

So, is this a contradiction?

3 Replies to “When PMI Introduced the Elephant – Part 2”

  1. It’s no contradiction.  Let’s not forget that last line: “That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”  At no point has any Agile method that I’m aware of abandoned processes and tools, or even documentation.  What is Scrum if not a series of processes, roles, and tools?  What are burndown charts, user stories, and backlogs if not documentation?  When Agile teams include members from external organizations, is there not a contract somewhere that governs their presence, roles, and responsibilities?

    And let’s not perpetuate the misconception that PMI is about “comprehensive documentation.”  The PMBOK is a compendium of useful (but not MANDATORY) processes.  Performing organizations can document as much or as little as meets their needs. 

    Agile approaches to developing products have demonstrated value for many organizations, but product development is only a subset of project management.  Neither the PMBOK nor PMI are IT-centric, despite the frequent criticisms of our colleagues in the construction industry.  I look forward to seeing the forthcoming IT extension to the PMBOK, because I expect it to fill a lot of gaps.  And I expect many of those gaps will be filled by Agile techniques, tools, and processes, because they have as much value of planning, contract negotiations, and all those other processes and tools documented in the PMBOK.

    1. First, I want to thank you for commenting on the post. I was kind of baiting everyone by how I wrote it. But, you articulated my thoughts very well. There is no contradiction.

      I do value some things more than others, depending on the project or depending on the customer. I’ll use every necessary tool at my disposal at the appropriate time, in order to increase the chances of having a successful outcome. Notice I say necessary and appropriate? If you use EVERY tool ALL the time, you’re going to wind up with a whole lot of waste.

      In situations where customers believe that only PMI certified individuals can be trusted to offer sound guidance, I am happy that more people will now be given a voice. More options can be considered by customers.

      Too many times I’ve had to play that “I am also a PMP” card to win a customer confidence.

      1. Once again, we’re in violent agreement ;-).  Thanks again for all the work that you’re doing to integrate Agile methods into critical path project management.  The two are most assuredly not mutually exclusive. 

        New topic: Did you ever reply to Samad Aidane’s request for a podcast interview?

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