Agile In Atlanta – PMBOK to LWOK
October 13, 2007
I have just got back from the 2007 PMI Global Congress conference held in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a good conference and while I may question the applicability of traditional project management approaches for software development projects; for organizing a conference it is hard to question the results. I experienced no line-ups; good speaker support and a well thought out and organized conference.
My presentation on “Developments in Agile Project Management” was over subscribed and I was asked back to do an encore presentation which is a great endorsement for the level of interest in agile project management, especially from within the traditional PM community. When I presented on agile methods at the 2004 PMI Global Congress in Anaheim, I was the only presenter on agile methods there. Since then I have seen an increase year on year. Last year I counted four agile topics and this year six, which is a promising trend.
I met up with Mitch Lacey and Stein Dolan who were also presenting on agile methods at the conference and it was great to chat and discover we had a similar philosophy. This is that agile methods are merely additional tools for the project toolbox that work well given certain circumstances. They do not replace traditional methods, but instead can exist alongside them and can be used very effectively when the circumstances warrant. This is what Jim Collins calls” The Genius of the And” and the “Tyranny of the Or” by using a smart mix of traditional methods And agile we can better respond to project challenges and avoid the limitations of “either / Or” thinking.
It is good that the PMI is incorporating more agile content; lots of of today’s projects really need these techniques to be successful. Yet many agile practitioners are reluctant to take their message to the PMI, and prefer to focus on agile conferences. However as Henry David Thoreau reminds us “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root” Not that the PMI is evil, but if we are to change the world of project management, then the PMI is a great place to start.
My talk covered what’s new with Agile Project management and I was glad to be able to announce the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) LWOK program approved just a few days before.
While the PMI has its Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) as its core set of agreed practices, little exists yet for agile project leaders. There are great resources scattered around different web sites, but no place we can point people to and say “go and start here, it will get you on your way”.
I was fortunate to be involved in the creation of the PMBOK v3 Guide. As a contributing reviewer I gained a little insight into the creation, review and approval process for new material. I’m glad I went through it and it is nice to be recognized in the latest PMBOK, but my main take away was that it is a lot of work and generally a slow, painful process.
So what would an agile leadership body of knowledge look like? Well for a start it should reflect agile values like: empowered teams, shared ownership, retrospectives, and rapid adaptation. Rather than a printed book with a 3 year refresh cycle, how about an online Wiki? This way ownership and contributions could be shared by the community, content could be added frequently and errors and omissions addressed quickly. Obviously Wiki’s come with their own set of problems like vandalism, innocent overwrites, and coordinating a set of moderators, but in theory at least, a network of community members building and progressively adapting a set of leadership competencies seems the way to go.
The idea of a Leadership Wiki Of Knowledge (LWOK) was suggested at the last APLN board meeting at the Agile 2007 Conference in Washington this August. I volunteered to lead the program and with the help of other APLN board members got the program approved for development.
I chose MediaWiki for the wiki site, we use it at work so it was somewhat familiar and it is the software behind Wikipedia so it seems more than up to the task. I have registered the domain www.lwok.org and set up a test site with just some placeholder content. The plan will be to encourage contributions and recruit moderators and build the leadership Wiki of knowledge and then publicize it.
So, if anyone is interested in this initiative please drop me an email and I can share more of the plans and forward you a copy of the Charter document that outlines the vision and constraints for the program.