The Spectrum of Project Management Through the Lens of Agile

Posted by Justin Rowe on 8/23/16 4:28 PM


The world of project management has shifted in multiple directions through a span of decades.  The introduction of the Agile Manifesto has driven the concepts and applicability of project management to new levels, not just beyond the atmosphere of software development, but into all realms of the industry.  Taking the main concepts of the manifesto, such as “individuals and interactions”, “working software”, “customer collaboration” and “responding to change”, can be applied within multiple types of projects outside of software development.  The point here is to understand where this applicability can be championed within organizations that maintain and execute a project portfolio to consistently increase customer value, and to maintain and optimize schedule and costs while minimizing risk.


In September 2015, PMI released its Pulse of the Profession: Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Organizational Agility, where it communicates it overall approach around the practice of valued concepts to promote and execute this required agility to become successful within any organization to include its PMO.  One quote that stood out within this report was, “A highly developed culture of agility exists when value is placed on ideals and behaviors such as collaboration, diversity, innovation, communication, creativity, transparency, and inquisitive thinking.”  Now, after reading this statement and dissecting it word by word, I would say there is a lot to personally assess where one is as a Project Manager, as well as how their role affects their PMO and how their PMO supports their organization as a whole to deliver projects that meets their strategy and business objectives. 


Developing a culture where the right team members brought on board are continually supported throughout their career with fairness and respect establishes a fundamental foundation to agility.  In addition, applying a mission and vision to strategize the execution of agility within the PMO team will lead to a common direction where flexibility and acceptance of change can be realized.  Although these concepts primarily revolve around the “people” aspect of the PMO, the process and technology pillars need the same, appropriate attention to ensure a well-oiled engine is constructed.


As digital businesses place the focus of the customer at the root of planning and execution phases of their operations, the processes that are utilized require the same concepts of agility as mentioned previously.  A distinct move to the question of “what do you need from me?” instead of the “here is what I can do for you” statement will need to be applied here, recognizing the “pull” system of a process, giving credit to the Toyota Manufacturing principle of Lean.  As PMOs strive to support their customer, whether internal or external, these processes must always have an adaptive mindset, where improvements and tweaks here and there are made to improve the continuously improving engine.  The execution of the organizational strategy fits well here as businesses will maneuver and dodge their way into new ventures, where this adaptive nature is required more than ever.  The PMOs need for transparency will enable the ability to support innovation around new products and services within the business.  According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Project and Portfolio Management for 2015 report, “Competitive and economic uncertainties and digital transformation needs are driving many organizations to launch the journey toward a true enterprise-wide project capability.”


Now, let me stop and take a few steps back.  Within the PMO and around the execution of the project portfolio, there will always be the foundation and expectation to utilize the Project Management Body of Knowledge as the gold-standard reference, especially within the 5 processes of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.  I consider this a valuable and critical document, a sort of “jumping-off” point, where innovative agility within the PMO and a culture where change is expected to drive consistent value to all customers.  The ability to enhance people and processes within the project management knowledge areas, such as risk and quality as well as the “iron” triangle of cost, schedule and scope will serve as an enabler for increased adoption of agility and transparency within the PMO.


As our people and processes within the PMO are given the proper construct to operate through an agile environment, what about the digital technology that we are seeing around the marketplace and how does it affect my team and me?  As we approach our upcoming webinar on August 31st with my colleague Jana Axline, VP of Marketing at the Mile Hi Chapter for PMI, we will take the next step and dive deep into how innovative technologies are impacting and enabling the Project Management Office to become more effective than ever before, not just around people and processes, but strategy and governance as well.  In addition, we will explore more than just features and capabilities of the latest Project and Portfolio Management platform, we will also discuss related technologies around the enterprise and how integration is the name of game beyond the PPM tool.  Stay tuned…


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Topics: Project Management