Make no mistake about it - blending PRINCE2® and agile is a big deal.
And as we approach the threshold of a PRINCE2 and agile marriage, it's clear to see that we've come a long way since 2007 when I first questioned how the two could feasibly come together.
Back then, when compared, they were commonly viewed as "chalk and cheese", but I held the pioneering opinion that what we were really looking at was two things that I couldn't see as being so inherently distinct; and while there are certain controls and techniques necessary for the two worlds to work together cohesively, they are complementary, just like salt and pepper.
I trained in PRINCE2, but also coming from the agile way of thinking and working so from the very early days recognized that bringing these two together would be the way to go in the future. I have been working, writing and talking about the subject for the best part of a decade, so when AXELOS set this project in motion I bit their hand off to get involved; it is both theoretically and culturally a perfect match.
Now, regardless of which side of the fence you're on, many people are talking about integration and what it could look like.
Agile may have its roots in IT, but it is essentially about creating a way to provide new products and deliver new services to customers, and this is fundamental to most organizations. Regardless of whether you're in a small startup, building revolutionary apps or working for one of the big banks, the digital revolution has meant that business has to be able to adapt at an incredible rate. For these reasons agile is no longer viewed as niche, but with the move to mainstream the adoption of agile has been wide and varied, and among the avid practitioners there are many people who have achieved very mature agile environments, whilst others are getting to grips with basic methodologies, such as Scrum.
But perhaps a bigger question for businesses using agile is the question of scale and complexity: Agile is very effective for small teams working in a single location but becomes challenging for projects with multiple teams that are geographically dispersed. PRINCE2 addresses that complexity and with more people and organizations using agile there comes greater recognition for structure to be in place. It's becoming more commonly accepted and less controversial that to perform agile effectively at scale, an element of control is required. Having said that the word 'control' still brings hostility from many in the agile domain.
As with all new concepts there will be some dichotomy in the market. For the agile purist (I like the term "Agilista"!), who is all about self-empowerment and collaboration, the control and structure of PRINCE2 is seen as unwelcome. However there is a balance to be struck - if agile is left to run wild in a large organization like a feral animal, it simply won't work. Agile is volatile and requires some control. While too much structure can be stifling, not enough can cause chaos, and this is where PRINCE2 Agile comes in.
The big question is how can we make this work? The answer is in three parts: addressing perception, playing to their respective strengths when blending them and developing guidance.
Breaking down perceptions is one big step-change that has to take place. Every methodology has its nemesis, which keeps it in check. For the free-spirited, collaborative, communicative "Agilista", PRINCE2 is bureaucratic, commanding and controlling. The fact that it isn't like that at all is immaterial - for those staunch advocates on either side, it's clear to see why there may be some apprehension about integration.
While agile is predominantly a delivery approach, more complex projects require greater structure, organization and management which is where PRINCE2 works successfully. For the marriage to work we have to combine the different elements in an effective way, blending them to play to their respective strengths and providing delivery with governance and a degree of control.
The guidance that we are developing will demonstrate to practitioners how the two worlds can work together. This is not about check box learning or micromanagement; it's about creating guidance and tools that provide parameters to be used in your own way, coherently. We are all running projects with people. We have to interact. Therefore for PRINCE2 Agile to be successful, guidance has to create empowerment without being prescriptive, which is no mean feat.