Book Summary: Making Sense of Agile Project Management

Making sense of Agile Project Management

Making Sense of Agile Project Management — Balancing Control with Agility

by Charles G. Cobb

Resonating Message

You need to understand the guiding principles and systems underpinning a range of methodologies (plan driven, iterative, and adaptive), and select one that is consistent with your business environment — tailoring it as necessary to fit specific projects.

Chapter in one sentence

  1. Agile methodologies are not prescriptive, you need to understand the values and principles, at a deeper level and know how to apply these in the context of your business and project environment.
  2. Agile is a set of values and principles — that have been drawn upon to shape some development practices (in combination with Lean) that range from Agile, Hybrid, and Traditional models. Each have varying interpretations, controls, and interpretations of those values.
  3. Being more agile has its benefits, but requires the mindset be developed — understanding and applying the principles behind Lean and agile to the way the organization thinks and its culture
  4. Fit methodologies to your business, and not vice-versa — focusing on the business outcomes, while avoiding all-or-nothing thinking or jumping on the practice bandwagon.
  5. Project Managers need to be Chefs rather than Cooks — being able to select from a broad range of methodologies, practices, and principles (agile and non-agile) to create an approach that is well aligned to the needs of the business environment, and tailor them to fit the risks and complexities of individual projects.
  6. Systems thinking is critical — Seeing the whole and understanding the interactions of the components and functions — and understanding how they interact with one another to produce the overall system result
  7. The assessment, identification, and importance of risk and value will greatly determine the controls and practices required to sufficiently manage those factors.
  8. It is a good thing to use a repeatable process, but you don’t want to use a standard methodology without tailoring it or customizing it to fit with the project as needed
  9. It is impossible to remove all uncertainty from a project — the purpose of project management is to mitigate risk to an sufficient level, such that the desired outcomes can be realized
  10. There are many SDLC’s that are used today — what’s key is to select the appropriate approach that suits your development process, and the clarify of the solution (Traditional Plan Driven > Incremental > Iterative Plan-Driven > Iterative Emergent > Adaptive)

Resonating Ideas

  • “The role of the PMO organization might shift significantly from the role of process enforcer, to a value-added process consultant to support project teams”
  • “A good process is the one people really use, is well aligned with the business environment and projects it is used for, and adds value without unnecessary overhead”
  • “We need to see these methodologies (waterfall/agile) as more of a continuum with a lot of shades of grey that can provide an appropriate balance of agility and control for a given situation”
  • “The agile movement is not anti-methodology… we plan, but recognize the limits of planning in a turbulent environment”
  • “Instead of force-fitting projects to fit any predefined methodology (either agile or non-agile, we should be adapting the methodology (or combination of methodologies) to fit the project”
  • “There are certainly situations where more of a traditional plan-driven approach may be more appropriate based on the risks and complexity of the project”
  • “No methodology should be considered to be an absolute dogma”
  • “Project leaders must champion technical excellence because therein lies the key to adaptability and low-cost integration that drive long-term product success”
  • “Project Managers need to focus on developing a balanced approach that blends the right level of control with a sufficient level of agility to also successfully delivery outcomes”
  • “Starting with a minimal set of practices and judiciously adding others as needed has proven to be more effective than starting with comprehensive prescriptive practices and attempting to streamline down”
  • “Principles are universal, but not always easy to see how they apply to particular environments. Practices, on the other hand, give specific guidance on what to do, but they need to be adapted to the domain”
  • “There is a relationship between the rigidity of the process, and the level of training required to perform the process”
  • “The business culture and environment as well as the characteristics of the project should drive the methodology”
  • “The level of risk is generally inversely proportional to the level of planning”



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