Traditional and Agile PM Integration Pains – a Positive Sign?

This content is syndicated from LeadingAnswers: Leadership and Agile Project Management Blog by Mike Griffiths. To view the original post in full, click here.

 Integration There has been some hubbub on the PMI Agile Yahoo Group these last couple of weeks. A lively back-and-forth about a slide deck published by the PMI Network magazine entitled “Is Agile Right for your project?

The original slides were here, but interestingly the slides appear to have been taken down now, or perhaps they have been temporarily lost in the recent PMI web site reorganization. An example of some of the feedback can be seen here. On the one hand I think the PMI should be applauded for making some steps towards providing information for its members. On the other hand the material could have been vetted by some members of the PMI Agile Community of Practice before release to smooth out the contentious issues and avoid the backlash.

I recall the original request for information on agile adoption guidance was sent to the PMI Agile Community of Practice. I submitted my thoughts on the topic (posted previously here) and many other people joined in the discussion thread, but I am not aware of what, or if any, of this information made it to the original requestor.

Anyway, my point is not so much on the content of the slides and what was right or wrong, but more on the reconciliation of agile and traditional PMI mindsets.

Social Integration Problems
Whenever two different groups come together for the first time, we get some friction, clashing of norms, exposing of preconceptions and good old fashioned faux pas by one or more groups. But, hey, it at least means the two groups are coming together and providing we have thick enough skins to tolerate the friction progress can be made.

Jane Jenson, from the University of Montreal, provides a model for social integration that lists 5 characteristics that need to be in place to create good social cohesion between different groups:

1)    Recognition – Both groups need to recognize the other group’s position
2)    Legitimacy – Both groups need to acknowledge the validity of the other group’s point of view
3)    Inclusion – Neither group should be excluded from events, roles, or functions
4)    Belonging – The benefits of belonging to a combined whole need to be understood
5)    Participation – Both groups need to work alongside each other on shared initiatives

Researchers also provide the following model of how social cohesion works:

  Social Cohesion


The model shows there are multiple inputs into to social cohesion and the higher the degree of social cohesion the greater the trust, cooperation and participation in initiatives. Social Capital refers to the networks of social relations that may provide individuals and groups with access to resources and support. In this case how to effectively combine agile and PMI based project management practices.

We have a long way to go, but we should recognize the work that has been done. The agile community has a number of people actively building these networks and social capital. Stacia Broderick, Michele Sliger, Jesse Fewell, Mike Cottmeyer, Dennis Stevens, myself, and many others are trying to build networks. The PMI Agile Community of Practice’s mission is to share information and build networks of like minded individuals.


Signs of Success
While signing up for a conference recently I could choose from the following presentations:

•    Growing Up Agile: The Next Generation of Project Managers
•    Why Failing Early in Agile is a Good Thing!
•    An Agile Simulation in 75 Minutes
•    Agile PM Mastery in 60 Minutes
•    5 Years of Teaching Agile PM for PMI: Lessons Learned and Recurring Resistance
•    Modern Agile Contracts: Moving Beyond T&M or Fixed Price
•    Beyond Backlogs and Burndowns: Complementing “Agile” Methods with EVM for Improved Project Performance
•    Agility in Program Management
•    Agile at the Office of Personnel Management: A True Story
•    Metrics for Agile Projects: Finding the Right Tools for the Job

The interesting point here is that this was not the choice offered by your average agile conference, but instead the upcoming PMI Global Congress in Washington D.C.

Agile is well ingrained in the PMI congress program and has more agile related presentations than there are time slots to attend them all. Heck, you could attend the whole PMI conference and attend nothing but agile related presentations. (I am not sure why you would want to do this, you would probably have got more value from an agile conference, but it demonstrates the volume of agile related content at the PMI conference.)

There are other signs of increased Recognition and Inclusion popping up everywhere too. Just in my local community of Calgary we have the following:

•    Our local Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) group kicks off the new season of events next month with a social networking event. This year it is a combined APLN and PMI-Chapter social.( Will it be two groups of people wearing either jeans and suits?)

•    Our PMI Chapter Communications Director is on our APLN organizing committee and we cross post presentations and events between groups.

•    We are now able to offer PDUs for attending APLN meetings, and not just Category 2 Self Directed Learning PDUs that have a limit on how many you can claim, but Category 3 training PDUs for Courses and Events by R.E.P.’s.

•    Heck, the PMI even let me, an agile proponent on the content creation committee for the PMBOK v5 Guide.


The Future
Doubtless there will be plenty of conflicts, blunders and disconnects on the road to PMI and agile integration. I suspect some people will never reconcile what they perceive as the disconnects and this should be accepted.

Many doctors practiced bloodletting in the 19th Centaury believing letting out the poisoned blood healed inflammation and other ailments. This practice was not overcome by converting practitioners into new ways of thinking, but instead by the next generation of doctors who studied more modern medicine that played down its usefulness.

Hopefully we will not have to wait for a new generation of project managers who learn the benefits of agile first hand in development roles. Instead we can encourage cooperation through the concepts of Recognition, Legitimacy, Inclusion, Belonging, and Participation to create some social cohesion and acceptance sooner.

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