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The PMI Agile Community of Practice

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Agile and the Project Management Institute (PMI). For many years and for many people this combination of terms rings a similar connotation as "oil and water"; they don't mix. But, is this justified? Jesse Fewell, Dan Mezick, and others say no and are aiming to dispel this perceived opposition by bringing agile into the PMI with a new PMI Agile Community of Practice.

Through March and April, agilist Tobias Mayer posted a series of opinionated blog entries spurred by PMI CEO Greg Ballestrero's keynote at the recent Scrum Gathering in Orlando, including a few after his conversation with Ballestrero at the event. In a nutshell, the posts describe Mayer's skepticism that PMI and Agile could ever coexist, a perception likely shared by many.

Interestingly though, there is an undercurrent in these posts that corresponds to a message from Ballestrero's post-conference thoughts and again in his remarks on the conversation with Mayer; the message boiling down to "lack of understanding". A lack of understanding within the agile community about PMI, yes, but more to the point, a lack of understanding about agile in the PMI community.

This fact has fueled the creation of a group within the PMI community aimed at spreading accurate knowledge about agile to the huge base of existing PMI members and supporters. This group, referred to as the PMI Agile Community of Practice and led largely by Jesse Fewell, describes itself this way on its volunteer-driven, open source knowledge-base wiki:

[This is] a grass-roots initiative between a group of Agilists and the Project Management Institute (PMI) to create a new Agile Community of Practice (CoP) within the PMI, with the stated purpose "to equip PMI members with Agile knowledge and skills".

The PMI Agile CoP will serve as a connecting body between Agile and PMI groups, facilitating the information sharing process at global, national, and local levels between already existing PMI components, communities and chapters.

Also on the site, a community charter states the group's purpose and values like so:

Community Purpose: "To equip PMI Members with Agile skills and knowledge"

Community Values:
  • "Adherence to the Agile manifesto" - We define the school of Agile Project Management to be characterized by a strong dedication to the best values and principles described in the Agile manifesto.
  • "Adherence to the Declaration of Interdependence for Modern Management" - We assert that the school of Agile Project Management is relevant to all projects, regardless of organization, sector, or markets, and is not limited to the software development community that originated it.
  • "Transparency" - Everything we do is performed to the greatest degree of global visibility possible.
  • "Iterative/Incremental" - Everything we do has the potential to be delivered early and delivered often.
  • "Kaizen" - Everything we do has room for improvement.
  • "Empirical" - Everything we do is judged by measurable value delivered against the Community Purpose.

When asked by InfoQ, key supporter Dan Mezick described the group's goal this way:

The PMI Agile Community brings agile knowledge and agile skills to all PMI practitioners. We are spreading agile ideas into non-IT and general business globally, via the PMI, with this launch.

For PMI practitioners, this community is THE place to get started with agile and Scrum concepts. For the agile community, the PMI Agile project is the place to be if you are interested in promoting agile and Scrum ideas globally via the PMI.

As of this writing, the group has not been officially launched, but it has gained significant momentum nonetheless and is preparing to make a big impression at the Agile 2009 this August in Chicago.

Jesse Fewell told InfoQ this about their conference plans:

This formal body of PMI Agilists is sending speakers to present talks, hand out flyers, and facilitate open space sessions. Our mission is to use Agile Project Management to change the face of business as we know it. PMI has a reach that has heretofore not been available to the Agile movement, and we aim to leverage that reach to train, teach, and coach any project managers willing to listen.

By announcing our official launch at Agile 2009, our intent is to issue a call to action to Agilists across the world to help us with that mission. For example, one of the experience reports at the conference will be telling the story of how we used Agile PM to build the PMI Agile organization, amidst a formidable bureaucracy, and how practitioners can take those lessons to their day jobs.

According to Fewell, the conference organizers are excited about the potential dialog regarding agile and PMI, and are offering a registration discount to PMI members.

Striving to bring agile into the PMI is not a totally new initiative, people like Mike Griffiths have been at it for years, but this growing initiative appears to be one of the more promising signs that it has potential.

Take some time to look into the PMI Agile Community's movement, either at their official Agile PMI site or the community site referenced above, and share your thoughts here.

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