Politics and Agile Project Management

Have you ever thought about the relationship of what’s going on in politics and Agile Project Management? I think there’s possibly a significant relationship between the two. Look at what is happening in politics throughout the world:

  • In the UK,  regardless of whether the decision to leave the EU is right or wrong, the “Brexit” vote indicates that many people want to have much more direct control of their own government
  • In the US,  Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump probably couldn’t be further apart in their political orientation but they do have one very significant thing in common – they are both attractive to people who are frustrated with the bureaucratic and cumbersome nature of establishment politics.

What Do People Really Want?

Without taking sides in any of these political contests, the pattern seems to be clear – people are fed up with bureaucracy and traditional, establishment politics and want a radical change.  However, many people are beginning to be concerned about the potential impact of such radical change.  What will be the impact of tossing out all of our experienced political leaders and moving to a much more unpredictable environment?  I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that question.

Politics and Agile Project Management

Does that sound familiar?  I think it does. 

What’s the Relationship to Agile Project Management?

A lot of organizations and people are fed up with force-fitting a traditional, plan-driven project management approach on their organizations that hasn’t changed significantly since the 1950’s and 1960’s.   They want to get rid of bureaucratic and cumbersome management processes.  Many businesses and people want radical change and they see Agile as a potential solution to that need.  However, tossing out all of the established way of doing things is a concern to many people and organizations.

An Agile Project Management approach can provide a nice compromise.   It provides a way to break away from a traditional, plan-driven project management approach; however, it doesn’t really require completely tossing out all of the established ways of doing things and starting completely over from scratch.  It provides a way to customize a management solution to fit the needs of a given business environment and projects.

If you look at what has happened with Agile, the Agile Manifesto that was developed fifteen years ago in 2001 started a revolution and many people in the Agile community have advocated a fairly radical approach to get rid of traditional, plan-driven project management altogether.   On the other side of that fence, there have been some project managers who are resisting this change and are equally polarized on insisting that a traditional, plan-driven approach is the only way to do project management and are force-fitting that approach on all projects.

What Does the Future Look Like?

I think that the polarization between the project management community and the Agile community is starting to fade away as people start to see that it is possible to blend the two approaches together in the right proportions to fit a given situation.   I hope it doesn’t take a long time for the polarization that exists in the current political environment to fade away.  Countries are like businesses in a sense – they are much stronger if the people in the country and business are unified around a common direction for the country/business and countries/businesses are weakened by excessive polarization and fragmentation.

Achieving that kind of unifying vision isn’t easy either in politics or in a business environment.  In both cases, it takes strong leadership to bring people together.  That’s why I’m so passionate about helping to develop that kind of leader in the Agile Project Management community.


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