Giving #Agile a bad name

Sometimes I read articles that I feel give Agile a bad name and hurt the cause. Recently an article was retweeted from earlier this year that compared Project Management to a disease.

You can read the article here.

I’m not sure why some agilists feel a need to diminish and criticize Project Management so completely. Project Management is a valuable addition to all projects when it is done right. Unfortunately, we have all been on projects when it wasn’t done right. The article goes on to propose how Agile is the cure to the disease of Project Management:

“Happily, there is a cure. It is a program of recovery called Agile, but because the nature of the program is a complete reassessment of one’s life and career, few are able to engage, seeking, as always a quick-fix solution. Those that do embark on the Agile program of recovery are challenged by its radical notions of release, rather than control, self-organization, rather than command and management, and trust rather than suspicion. Sufferers are asked to embrace failure—anathema to the Project Management mindset. The recovery process is slow, and many, getting frustrated along the way, will revert to old behaviors. Recovered Project Managers—who come to be known as Agilsts—have great patience for their fellow sufferer and will always be there to support and guide them through these relapses.”

First off, I’m not sure Agile causes you to re-evaluate you life. But hey, maybe that is just me. 🙂

Of course this example takes the worst stereotypical characteristics of a command and control Project Manager. Would any of us want that Project Manager on any of our teams? Of course not. But I have worked with many awesome Project Managers who were not controlling and suspicious on previous waterfall projects. We can describe any role on a project in the worst stereotypical way, but it is the extreme example of naiveté to believe a process or methodology would alone be the cure.

The Truth

Are there people with bad leadership, teamwork, and management skills in Project Management roles? Absolutely. There are also people with bad leadership and teamwork skills in developer roles as well. I know you may find it hard to believe but some of them are actually on Agile projects. It isn’t all sunshine and roses on Agile projects. People have their own agendas and motivations that can hurt providing value for the client.

Agile provides the ability to expose those people and bad leadership and teamwork characteristics sooner than later, but Agile alone isn’t the solution. A person with bad leadership will likely exhibit that bad leadership in whatever methodology the project is executing under. Even in an Agile project, the person still needs to want to trust and delegate. Some people find the transition harder than others.

What is the solution? Good people with good hearts who care about each other and the project. No matter what methodology you are using, if you have good people with good hearts they will have the right balance on the project. If anything, Agile just shows the people with good hearts sooner.

Guess what? Those good people with good hearts have been successful on teams for decades before ‘Agile’ came along. These people are still successful on waterfall project today. Could they be more successful using Agile? I would say yes, but that doesn’t mean they would not be successful without it.


I myself have joked about how I have recovered to be an Agile Project Manager, but some of the best Project Managers I have ever worked with were always operating in an Agile manner. In fact, probably some the first Agilists were Project Managers who were trying to find better ways.

Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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