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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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Community comments

  • Could see it coming

    by Bruce Rennie,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I did my PMP a few years ago and there were already hints at them becoming more "Agile friendly".

    On the other hand, the "training" is so general as to be limited value and certification is really only valuable for consultants or others trying to sell their expertise.

    I value my PMP and my ScrumMaster certificate about equally. Which is to say: not very much.

  • Project methodologies

    by Hannah Swales,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    This is an interesting move.

    I've always advocated a flexible approach to the management of software projects. I often find I'm running agile and waterfall methods alongside each other dependent on the software that needs to be produced and the client it is for. It's important for IT project managers to think flexibly and recommend a project approach based on each individual case. I appreciate this will not always apply. For example, if you have an internal, rather than external client, or if you are producing a product to be licensed there is usual more scope to choose the approach that you, and the team you work with, prefer. It's also worth noting that elements of waterfall and agile techniques can be blended together. In the past, I have run a projects using a waterfall method in terms of the overall structure of the project, with prioritisation and change management techniques from agile methodologies.

  • Re: Project methodologies

    by Mike Bria,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    a waterfall method in terms of the overall structure of the project, with prioritisation and change management techniques from agile methodologies

    That's interesting, maybe you could expand on that a bit?

  • Re: Project methodologies

    by mario fernandes,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I am newbie in this issue and my question perhaps is not complicated, that is , PMI and Scrum can be applied together in the same project? is it advisable to do ?

    Thank you all in advance.


  • Agile or Scrum

    by Chris Matts,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Is this an Agile initiative or a Scrum Alliance initiative? The invite on the wiki is from the Scrum Alliance.

    The PMI is effectively an accreditation body. The Agile Alliance made an announcement on accreditation a couple of years ago that would lead to suspect that the Agile Alliance would not be involved in this activity. The Scrum Alliance's is obviously pro-accreditation.

    The nature of this article gives the impression that this is a grass roots initiative. If this is so, how do the Scrum Alliance Management feel about it. I would have expected them to lead the charge on this kind of initiative.

    If it is a Scrum Alliance initiative, I do not think it appropriate to call it an Agile PMI Community unless they intend to promote all Agile methodologies and approaches.

  • Re: Agile or Scrum

    by Mike Bria,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Agreed Chris. As I understand it, this is an AGILE-centric "grass roots" effort. As I mention in the article, Jesse Farewell and Dan Mezick seem to be the main driving forces behind this, so it'd probably be best for them to weigh in on your question (which is a great one). Guys?

  • Re: Agile or Scrum

    by Dan Mezick,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    For the record, I am the Scrum Master on this project, and Jesse (Fewell) is the Product Owner. Together we lead a team of really great people, all of whom execute on the mission.

    These GREAT people leading sub-teams on the project include (but not limited to):

    Ainsley Nies

    Pat Reed

    Bob Tarne

    Sanjiv Augustine

    Brian Bozzuto

    Great people all (especially Pat)!!

    We use Scrum to manage the process of executing on the mission. Each team member runs a sub-team with it's own backlog.

    The [pmi-agile] project has a mission:
    " bring agile knowledge and agile skills to all PMI practitioners."

    This is both a grass-roots initiative and a sponsored initiative. Our current focus is to build up the web content of our web site, (see article) such that the site has good content for PMPs and others transitioning to agile. We are actively soliciting PMPs to send in experience reports we may publish.

    Thus the effort is grassroots and at the same time sponsored and chartered by the PMI. For example our content can be found on the PMI web site. At the present time membership is required to view that content, something we are not thrilled about but understand given who the PMI currently "is".

    We encourage any sponsoring vendor to contact us to explore sponsorship opportunities. We are building out the first-ever PMI Agile Community of Practice (CoP) and we have a charter and plan with PMI to accomplish this.

    So to your question, here is the answer: this is both a grassroots initiative and a PMI-sanctioned and sponsored community development project.

    We are using Scrum, and of course anyone interested in promoting Scrum is interested in this initiative. We are in active discussions with the entire agile community including vendors, sponsors, and bodies like Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance etc.

    I am the [Manifesting Agility] stage director of Agile2009. One aspect of this stage is: "Agile in non-IT Domains". This is the very first time this topic has authorized, official space on a Stage at this conference.

    Alistair Cockburn is speaking on exactly this in part of his keynote. PMI is the bastion of non-IT project management. Many forces are converging now, conspiring to bring agile and Scrum into the mainstream of worldwide business.

    We are at the vanguard of this unstoppable trend. We invite all in the agile community to join us as we execute on our mission:

    " bring agile knowledge and skills and all PMI practitioners."

    It is now time. I encourage you to join us !!

  • The PMI is open to it

    by Phillip Cave,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I was invited to present at the yearly PMI conference in Seattle this year and was the only speaker presenting on Agile project management. I had a full room (over 100 participants) so I know the PMI community is hungry for the knowledge. It was very encouraging to see and I had a great time having an Agile conversation with the audience. Like any other organization that has the desire to understand and apply the principles behind the Agile movement, I look at this opportunity as a responsibility we have as experienced Agilists to share where we are able.

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