Scaling Agile: An Existential Threat to Project Management?

With over 25 years of diverse delivery and consultancy experience across business and IT, and having held senior positions that span the entire solution delivery life-cycle, Louis now shares his experience as a University lecturer/ researcher aiming to bridge the practitioner-academic divide.

Abstract
At a time when project management appears to be a successful, growing discipline that enshrines planning and control, the context in which projects are undertaken is shifting. The rapidly changing business environment and the adoption of digital technologies has seen the emergence of agile methods, initially in software development, but increasingly in a broader business context. As the project management discipline responds to this challenge by embracing lean-agile practices at a more fundamental level, the disruption could pose an existential threat to the project management discipline.

There are far-reaching implications of adopting lean-agile practices which, in direct contrast to the planning and control required by classical project management methodologies, enshrine self-organization and self-managing team behaviors. While agility currently addresses teamwork at the development level, it can appear to offer little challenge to the project management discipline, which is working to embrace it with agile project management (APM) frameworks that wrap a management layer around a lean-agile team.

The research question posed and explored in this paper is how the ongoing efforts to "scale agile" and apply its self-organizing principles to the development of increasingly complex solutions might impact the project management discipline in the longer term…


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