Project management in an Agile world

Two agile practitioners examining Post-It notes on a board

PRINCE2 Agile® arguably offers the best of both worlds, so why aren’t more Agile practitioners embracing this collaborative approach? 

Julie HendryIn the past five years or so, I’ve seen a growing recognition within the Agile community that controls, governance and oversight are essential processes in most organizations. But instead of collaborating with individuals within the organization – the very thing that Agile is a proponent of – there seems to be a tendency to distribute these capabilities across Agile teams.

Pushing project managers out of the equation in this way has meant that the promised “high performance Agile teams” are overburdened: required to handle the reporting and management responsibilities that was previously done by the traditional project manager role.

So it’s interesting: we’ve gone from never speaking about project managers – a key directive of Agile since it first took hold in the mid-2000s – to gradual recognition that organizations still need a lot of the things that they deliver. While the funding mechanisms in organizations continue to be driven annually, we will always need this function.

The problem is that instead of taking the opportunity to evolve, the Agile community seems to be refusing to play ball. In fact, none of the Agile methods have tried to welcome in traditional project management practitioners or augment the Agile message in a way that organizations can use.

This close-minded attitude is one of the reasons I chose to get involved with PRINCE2 Agile and have found it hugely helpful. And if other Agilistas take the time to understand it, I’m sure they would too. It’s one of the only tools I’ve come across which is designed to draw the two methods together, rather than expecting a wholesale adoption of one or the other.

And this is the crux of the matter. It’s not an either/or situation; the two can work in harmony if you put some forethought into it.

Knowledge of PRINCE2 Agile lets me have grown-up conversations with people in a language that is universally understood. This is why I’d like to see more people adopting an approach where dialogue is important rather than selling a concept or product. Sadly, I think we are still some way from this level of acceptance and behavioural change.

However, there are signs that the tide may be starting to turn from a blind adoption of Agile in full. Some companies are using the term “we do agile with a small ‘a’ here”, meaning they aren’t going to buy and implement Scrum wholesale, but take the bits that will be useful to that individual organization. After all, no two organizations are identical so why follow a blanket approach?

In the meantime, every project manager has an important role to play in influencing this much-needed shift in thinking. But, to do so, they need to be part of the Agile conversation and get their voices heard. So, at this juncture, my advice to them would be:

  • Go out and learn about PRINCE2 Agile so that when Agile is brought into your organization, you will understand the language and can use it to get what you need.
  • Know your stuff, so that when an Agilista tells you to change something about your role and/or methodologies don’t believe them, unless you think it would be useful. 
  • Remember: knowledge is power.

Read Julie Hendry's previous AXELOS Blog Post, Agile and PRINCE2®: The Language Barrier.

Current rating: 4.7 (14 ratings)


11 Nov 2018 Iftaar
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Thanks for sharing.
27 Feb 2019 Paul Alford
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Interesting blog, thanks
28 Jan 2020 Jayant Kejriwal
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Very relevant thoughts expressed in this blog. thanks!
26 Apr 2020 Santosh Malvi
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Thanks for documenting this blog.
2 Oct 2020 Sourik Lahiri
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A very debatable topic - "Traditional Project managers are not welcome in Agile methodologies". This blog comes as a myth buster. It helps us to transition from a rather idealistic to very practical approach of Agile Adoption in large Scale Industry.
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