Fri Dec 01 2023
Some of you may be surprised as I was to learn about PMI’s 2017 collaboration with the Agile Alliance. The result was an overview of Agile Methodologies called the Agile Practice Guide. Groups of volunteers from both organizations worked together to draft and review a document on Agile.
The product of their work is the newly published, Agile Practice Guide. A PMI publication, this document is now generally available and is included with the free PDF download of the 6th Edition of the PMBOK.
I wasn’t completely surprised by the release since I was one of the collaborators on the document. I had the pleasure of contributing to the guide thanks to Sally Elatta of Agile Transformations who invited me to pair with her to review and provide comments on an early draft of the document. I’ve learned a lot from Sally over the years and was happy to be able to collaborate with her on this project.
First of all, let me say that I am happy that the Agile Practice Guide is somewhat lightweight. At 167 pages for the printed version, the document wasn’t a quick read, but it looked pretty skinny when compared to the 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide which weighs in at a hefty 795 pages. (In this post, my colleague Jerome Rowley gently pointed out that the PMBOK is actually only 536 pages, not 795).
RANT – The PMBOK Guide is so bloated! I don’t want to show my age but I remember as a newly minted PMP back in 1996 when the first PMBOK guide came out. Like this new Agile Practice Guide, the first edition of the PMBOK was just 176 pages. How did it get to be 800 pages?!? Has it become more than 4X as good in the last 21 years? This is just a GUIDE to the body of knowledge. Geez!
One of the take-aways for me is that PMI recognizes the importance of Agile methods and is working to overcome the US vs. THEM thinking that has grown over the years, especially between PMI and the Scrum community. Frequently people see traditional project management and Agile as conflicting, or a clash of mindsets. I’ve written extensively about the mindset and paradigm shifts that traditional PMs need to make to understand Agile. Some project managers make the shift and others don’t. Maybe this document is an attempt to build a bridge or a way for more traditional PMs to grow in Agile thinking and methods.
I really had to wonder if PMI was attempting to use the Agile Practice Guide as the standard Agile methodology, as the PMBOK has become for traditional project management. Is the next step for PMI to create the Agile Body of Knowledge?
Like the PMBOK, the Practice Guide could become the basis for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner exam. As you may know from reading my recent blog on the PMI-ACP, the current exam content is drawn from a set of 12 individual books.
Will the Guide replace the current 12 sourcebooks? After all, that is the approach for the Project Management Body of Knowledge and the PMP certification. On the positive side, this would perhaps reduce the amount of spending that people need to do.
On the negative side, I think that could either 1) limit the expansion of Agile knowledge and thinking or 2) produce an Agile Practice Guide that is 500 pages just like the PMBOK. Ouch.
UPDATE January 2018: PMI has announced that they are revising the PMI-ACP exam to align the terminology with the Agile Practice Guide, effective March 26, 2018. This sounds like the first step toward the AGILEBok. Read more here.
One of my main criticisms of the document and one that I voiced in my early review, was that the focus is all about projects. The authors intentionally drew the line between implementing Agile at a project or team level, and implementing Agile at the organization. This troubles me.
It is not that I don’t believe in the value of projects, it is just that the document (and I think most PMI members) view the world through the lens of projects. This ignores the PRODUCT focus that is prevalent in many organizations that leverage agile approaches and long standing teams.
Agile organizations generally don’t think projects; they don’t think of they work that they do as temporary and unique. Rather, they think in terms of building and maintaining valuable solutions and products.
Traditional project managers have a difficult time seeing beyond the project paradigm, as I outlined in this blog post. This approach also sidesteps the need in most organizations to move from silos of functional organizations to cross functional teams.
Pulling people from these functional teams to staff short term projects is not creating a shared ownership for the end to end delivery that agile teams benefit from.
I also cannot fathom how Agile hybrid approaches and multi-mode works within an organization. If I am a developer and I move back and forth between traditional projects and Agile projects, do I have an Agile mindset?
Do I have to switch my mindset each time? What if I am working on both of these projects at the same time? I just don’t see how that can be compatible.
Read more about Hybrid Agile in What is Hybrid Agile and How to Succeed with Hyrbid and Blended Agile Approaches.
The guide says it is targeted to those project teams that are in that “messy middle ground between predictive and agile approaches”. Most organizations have at least experimented with Agile and only a small percentage are actually fully agile. So that leaves a lot of people in that messy middle ground.
Here is a Quick Overview of this new Agile Practices document:
PMI members should have received an email with instructions to download the PMI Agile Practice Guide. If you didn’t, here is where you can find it: