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What Exactly is Agile Project Management?

In the explosion of Agile deployed in many companies has brought project management to a crossroads.

Project managers are grappling with the fact that years of experience and training have left them with a need to adapt to more Agile philosophies or be branded as dinosaurs. The advent of the new Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) from PMI has shown PMI recognizes the need to build in more Agile aspects into the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). In many companies, management looks at project management as either a necessary cost center or as an area where resource dollars can be saved.

Can Agile and Project Management Co-Exist?

The short answer to the above question is YES. The project manager of today must realize one thing – adaptability is the way to survive and thrive in every company. The pace of technology and change is not rapid but frenetic. The project manager that adapts to Agile philosophies realizes quickly they must take the best of PMBOK and Agile and come forth with a workable solution for their company. The new Agile project manager realizes that stability and time with no change are a thing of the past. The Agile project manager can take the project manager skills they have learned and transform themselves into a scrum master or a vital cog in making sure they become Agile program/portfolio managers. The Agile program or portfolio manager plays a key role in making sure multiple scrum teams communicate on the combined deliverables they are producing. The communication of Agile teams is a troublesome aspect of Agile and unless a company fully leverages Scaled Agile they struggle to ensure a coordinated vision. The roles previously described give new and exciting options for the project manager to explore and bring a new and refreshed Agile project management discipline to their company.

The Real Role of the Agile Project Manager, was it Always There?

The Agile project manager, at their heart, is a change agent. The Agile project manager has to be a change agent and mentor, teach and preach the idea that change is a law of nature and the organization must not shy away from it, but embrace it fully. The one aspect of good Agile is the mantra of continuous improvement. The structure and agility of companies today is dismal, and the courage to implement disciplined continuous improvement takes a great deal of courage.

The application of good adaptable, realistic project management practices can be thought of as a base for the Agile project manager.

The deployment of good Agile usually requires organizational changes, sometimes major, to ensure the Agile transformation process works. These underlying structural changes in companies need a champion and this is where the Agile project manager must take the lead. The Agile project manager is uniquely positioned to advocate, manage and lead changes they understand organizations and what needs to be done to make them more efficient.

So What Now?

The project manager should first realize the need for change and adapt and embrace the role they have as the lead change agent. The methodologies of today are just that – methodologies. The truly successful project managers keep one eye on the current environment and one eye on the future. The new Agile project manager will take whatever tool or methodology is available and should not be a purist. The adherence to purity will doom the Agile project manager. This ability to adapt in Agile and the new rules spelled out in this article will hopefully make project managers realize they oversee their destiny, not a bureaucratic and bloated management.

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