An Essential Paradigm Shift for Implementing Agile

Chicagoland Chapter

Anthony is an enterprise agile Coach with Vitality Chicago, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience delivering large-scale business programs and IT projects. He specializes in helping organizations effectively apply Lean and agile principles and the Scrum framework to gain true business agility. He teaches a wide range of agile and Scrum training courses as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for agile to succeed. Anthony is the author of numerous blog posts and articles and two books: Agile Project Management and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers. He has an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland.

If you are a great project manager, chances are that your mental models limit your ability to understand and implement agile. I've spent the last six years training and coaching individuals and teams to help them understand and leverage agile approaches, and I've seen it happen again and again. Project managers tend to see the world as “projects.” The better the project manager, the more difficult it is for them to think outside the “project” paradigm.

This is sometimes called the law of the instrument: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Back when I was a practicing project manager, my skills and way of thinking served me well in most situations. I was great at organizing our family's annual 4th of July party or planning a cross-country trip. But there were also times when my project thinking was over the top and my wife would tell me that I should stop trying to "project manage" everything.

Projects are one way to get important work done, and it worked great for us in previous times when there was less global competition and the rate of change was low. It doesn't work so well in today's environment, where competition is fierce and change is constant.

In today's competitive environment, seeing everything as a project will limit our flexibility and how we solve problems. …

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