2 August 2007

The Myth of Agile Project Management

A colleague and I were discussing agile project management yesterday.

He had spent a few hours coaching a software development project team on some general project management principles; communications, stakeholder management, managing requirements, and was answering questions about how in you can manage an Agile project in a complex organisation.

Our conversation turned to whether there was such a thing as Agile Project Management. Sure there is agile software development, but I was of the opinion that it’s not the same thing.

The agile software development method is defined (in my view) as a series of small, short term and discreet functional releases. I can’t really wrap my head around how this translates to project management as I know it; project management still seems to just sit across the top of this process. Just with smaller documents and less paperwork, which doesn’t require agile development so much as force of will to push past the bureaucrats. Project management is already something that you fit to the project's size and complexity. It doesn't need to be redefined again.

However, the contrary view we explored during our conversation, was that if you can call the software development activities a discreet part of a project then it’s management style is part of that process; so maybe Agile Project Management does exist and it's a corollary of the existence of Software Project Management, and that Waterfall Project Management is it's own unique knowledge area also.

What do you think?


  1. It appears that others are already haveing this conversation. if you want to learn more follow this trail.

  2. I agree, that project management already exists regardless of the methodology.

    Agile practices, however, introduce the need of managing these short cycles of development called iterations - Iteration Management.

    On smaller projects, often a Project Manager is an Iteration Manager as well. Even on the outward looking side (towards the client) where a PM concentrates her/his attention to, the frequency at which the iterations play themselves may change a few practices around communication and the payload of the communication. Progress of the team is reflected using a bit more sophisticated yet meaningful concepts like velocity, load factor, etc.

    So, I guess, what I am trying to say is that Agile requires to manage iterations and forces a PM to change their pace and nature of communication in a certain fashion. That's all there's to Agile Project Management.

  3. Anonymous7:44 am

    I look at "agile project management" as being a mindset more than formal methodology....although Jim Highsmith might disagree with me. I may change my mind on this once I read his Agile Project Management book though. :)