Squaring up the PMBOK Guide and Agile

Glen Alleman shoots down some of the common misconceptions about the relationship between the PMBOK Guide and agile principles (here).  As regular readers know, I’m sympathetic to agile approaches, I’ve found them very powerful in the right project context, and I push to incorporate agile principles further into our own content. 

Of course, if I commented on Glen’s post itself, I’d be writing “ditto” or “I agree” a lot, so I’m just going to add on a bit:

  • While many agile advocates over-read the PMBOK Guide, the guide did imply a waterfall approach, especially in earlier editions (Chapter 2).  I can understand the confusion or over-reading.
  • The pending 4th edition does have a more sophisticated treatment of project life cycles and explicitly addresses iterative relationships among project phases.  It is hardly sufficient, but it is heading the right direction.
  • PMI itself is quite eager to engage agile advocates for future editions (or extensions) of the PMBOK Guide.  Several Global Corporate Council members were approached about how and whom to engage in the agile (or agile-savvy) community.
  • My take is that creating an Agile extension to the PMBOK Guide would be the best initial approach.  If nothing else, integrating agile-oriented PMs into the standard-setting process should be easier in an extension project.

3 Responses

  1. Paul,
    I have a “graded project management” guide that was developed for a DOE laboratory. I’d be happy to share this with anyone.
    It has 5 classifications of projects and the practices needed for each area. These range from simple projects, with low risk, to 20 billion $ nuclear weapons plants.

  2. Hi Again Paul,
    For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would be eager to create an extension to the PMBOK Guide and in doing so, allow PMI, through the transfer of copyright, to own and control the collective knowledge that we are contributing, then have the audacity to sell it back to us?

    Why not just post it on these blogs or do what many of us are now doing, simply contributing our collective knowledge to Wikipedia? At least by putting into the “public domain” under GNU or Copyleft licensing, no organization can claim it as their own and sell it back to us.

    If you have not see it yet, take a look at my article on the PMForum or PMHub http://www.pmforum.org/viewpoints/2008/PDFs/Giammalvo-11-08.pdf

    Folks, consider the need to free ourselves from PMI’s (and other “professional organizations”) global hegemonic efforts to dominate the practice of project management!!! Our world belongs to us, the practitioner and not to professional organization managers.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  3. Hi Paul,
    You’ve ID’d one of the challenges for PMI, and to be fair they’re at least trying to address the challenge of IP and ownership today (e.g., social networking initiatives, establishing a new media council, etc.). However, a large part of their constituency is very comfortable with the idea of a formal, structured standard-setting body (e.g., the industries that have PMBOK Guide extensions: Construction, Government, Defense).

    An IT extension has foundered for some of the reasons you mentioned (e.g., IP issues). There are ways around it (the US DOD controls its extension), but none are easy. Also, the form, function, and lifecycle of the traditional standards creation process is not amenable to the IT workstyle and culture. And frankly, IT project management practices aren’t mature at all.

    Creating an agile extension will be daunting for all those reasons and more (look at the “agile software development” wikipedia entry — they’ve been working it for four years and it still has big problems).
    Best, Paul

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