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Real Life Experience

Agile is a Threat

“Agile is a threat.”

At least that is what I heard in one of the break outs at a Project Management Institute (PMI) regional conference this weekend.  This was done in a SWOT analysis.  That caused an uproar in the room as some Project Managers challenged it while others openly agreed.



Is agile a threat?  YES, if you refuse to change.  Just like how email is a threat to the US Postal service, how Amazon is to Best Buy and how electronic health records are to filing cabinets, AGILE IS A THREAT.


One of the mainstays in non-software development was that Product and Project disciplines were separate.  Sometimes it got confusing, you have the Project Manager talking to the sponsor of the project which might involve multiple products.  However sometimes you have the Product Manager working with the sponsors on one product line but with multiple projects.  Lines got blurry.

If you thought that was bad, now comes agile.  We have a Product Owner and a Scrum Master.  When you look at the job roles in the Scrum Guide, you see the Product Owner is a blend of Project and Product in one spot, planning the strategy of the product lines and engaged in Portfolio Management.  The Product Owner is also planning the releases to the public, working with sales and marketing on the go-to-market project plans.

Now comes the Scrum Master, focused on ‘how many iterations will it take to delivery that release’?  As the PMBOK states, ‘the rolling wave approach’ or ‘top down planning’.  Aside from the planning of iteration time frames, they are a coach, a mentor, a yoda of agile culture.  Only 1/3 of their job is ‘Service to the Delivery Team’, hence your CSM two day training slide deck..  The other 2 more challenging roles are ‘Service to the Product Owner’ and ‘Service to the Organization’.  The Scrum Master, coupled with the Agile Coach, is focused on agile as a product with a maturity cycle through out the organizations.

That being said, the PMP traditionalist Project Manager is dead in the typical scrum/agile software delivery cycle, at least at the team layer.  Why?  The Product Owner and Scrum Master split the PMP roles which allows the Product Owner to OWN the product and the Scrum Master to make little agile jedi knights of the team members.


Yoda didn’t ask Luke to schedule his attacks, he asked him to ‘feel the force’.  It was about culture and maturity of the person.  This is the Scurm Master’s job, not to ask ‘how much time did you spend’ but rather ‘when will value be met’?

Is agile a threat?  Absolutely and rightfully so.  Gen-Y changes rapidly and life isn’t a matter of planning, it is about living.  With Gen-Y taking over 50% of the workforce in the next few years, you can’t ignore their natural tendencies.  If you do, you will be in the same spot as Best Buy and the Postal Service, potentially irrelevant and at the least fighting to stay above water with your competition.  Agile is a threat but in closing…’fear is the path to the dark side.’


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