An Agile coach’s journey into PMI country – Day 1 – I’m very disappointed!

Posted By on Jan 24, 2010

It feels good to have a common enemy, someone or something to hate or discredit. What this usually does is create a sense of unity between individuals who share a common view. We do this with programming languages (Java vs. .Net), philosophies (Waterfall vs. Agile) and even within those philosophies (Scrum vs. DSDM vs. Crystal vs. …).

One of my preferred antagonists was the all mighty monolithic Project Management Institute (PMI) and its PMP disciples. In an attempt to keep my friends close and my PERCEIVED enemies closer, a colleague and I decided to attend the PMI bootcamp – a five day course to prepare for the PMP certification.

As an Agile coach, helping medium to large organizations transition away from traditional methodologies, I am continuously confronted and challenged by Project Managers armed with a PMP certification. Don’t get me wrong, I like being challenged! It actually makes my job easier and greatly increases the chances of a successful transition. That said, I’d like to understand where he or she is coming from. What is the driving force behind a PMP certified Project Manager? Do they have their own manifesto and maybe Project Management Charter? And who knows…Maybe this five day course would offer some additional tools to work with within an agile context.

One of my preconceived notions was that the PMI trainer’s underlying message would have been: “You must plan software projects exactly the same way as you would a high rise project” You must plan the living daylights out of the project, execute that plan and all we be fine in lala land. With my past experiences with PMPs, can you blame me?

I was very disappointed!

What we saw and heard was not an evil empire headed by an evildoer with acute asthma, but an open minded, experienced project manager coupled with a great deal of common sense. Mind you, this refers only to our first day and we get a different trainer every day (BTW, I like the «different trainer every day» concept and thinking we could do this with our Certified ScrumMaster Training – Food for thought and maybe a future post)

What we saw is a slide similar to this one…


…and the trainer actually said: “In I.T., we don’t even know what we are doing next week so don’t start planning to much ahead”.

I almost got teary eyed!

On the other hand, there is also the strong notion that the project manager is fully responsible for the success of the project. As an Agile coach continuously working to establish shared responsibility between the ScrumMaster, Product Owner and development team members, this notion rubs me the wrong way.

Some of the things I did like were:

  • Project versus Product Life Cycle
  • The Rolling Wave
  • Progressive Elaboration: “Continuously improving and detailing a plan… ”
  • The 9 knowledge areas
  • Process assets (Lessons learned)
  • Including “Expert judgment” in most processes

So I guess Project Managers who keep telling me that their sound PMI practices does not allow them to adopt an “Agile” way of doing things are just pulling my leg – some kind of bad joke. Next time it happens I’ll be ready with a full hearted laugh and a high five. Hopefully he/she doesn’t leave me hanging 😉

I’ll be elaborating on the Knowledge Areas and Process Groups in future posts, but for now, suffice to say that I’m prudently putting aside my perceived dichotomy between PMI and Agile.

Stay tuned…


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