Agile Practitioners: Focus on the 'Why'

PMI Durham Highlands Chapter

Kevin Aguanno is the agile practice lead for Procept Associates Ltd., one of PMI’s first Registered Education Providers, specializing in training and project and programme strategy consulting. Author of over 30 books, audiobooks and DVDs on project management topics, he teaches agile methods at several universities and at conferences around the world. He spends most of his time helping large, complex organizations integrate agile project management methods into their governance frameworks.

I am frequently amazed at the common misunderstandings and misapplication of agile methods in daily practice. Of course, as agile methods move into mainstream adoption, one would expect a growing number of inexperienced practitioners attempting to adopt and deploy agile methods within their projects and their teams. Much of the disappointing results these naïve practitioners create, however, is avoidable through better training and more consistent messaging within the agile community. You see, we are partially responsible for creating this problem ourselves.

Agile is More Than Techniques
Much traditional agile training focuses on what techniques need to be applied and how to perform them. Consider traditional ScrumMaster training that focuses so much on the project backlog and sprint burndown charts, and daily standup meetings. After two days of training, newly dubbed ScrumMasters move into the business world and attempt to use Scrum to the betterment of complex projects in large organizations--often with disastrous results.

You see, these new ScrumMasters may understand the “what” and the “how” of their new practices, but they often don’t understand the “why”--why these practices were created in the first place. To illustrate this point, let’s look at two common situations I see frequently when I perform my …

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"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

- Mark Twain

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