The dangers of Agile evangelism

We always look forward to the views expressed in the “Critical Path” spot in the APM’s project magazine, and John Rowley of TPM sounding off about the Agile evangelists is no exception.
Agile AllianceHe raises a concern that we share, and that is that some individuals like to grab hold of the latest ’toy’ believing that it will single-handedly fix all problems.  The ‘toy’ in question is Agile.  John rightly makes the point that Agile is a super tool for the project manager’s toolbox, but it is not the right tool for all projects.  We observe that a big danger for Agile (Let’s hope the Agile Alliance and their colleagues are thinking about this) is that it is the latest bandwagon which is being jumped on by the training companies who largely ruined the credibility of PRINCE2.  Clearly attempting to discredit one approach to project management in favour of another without considering the context is at best immature and at worst dangerous for both the project and the profession.
Here are the key points which John makes.
I just walked out of an Agile presentation. Not for the first time. This is getting tedious. Don’t get me wrong, I am enthusiastic about Aagile as a potential technique for project managers to use. Sometimes only an Agile approach will do, so I am certainly not against it. But why do people always feel they have to justify Agile by misrepresenting traditional (waterfall) approaches? The logic seems to be: “Some projects go badly therefore all projects using established approaches must go badly – therefore traditional project management must be ‘broken’.
The way these events go the presenters seem to be evangelising for a completely new approach across the profession (reinventing all aspects of project management to fit with their new belief system). 
It would be refreshing if they accepted the strengths of traditional methods, and the limitations of their own approach, and presented themselves as members of the project management profession, rather than as people who appear to want to overthrow it.  In fact many projects using traditional project management methods go remarkably well and in many areas performance is improving.  Indeed many projects might not fare so well if Agile were used.
So surely the message must be: “Project management is good but we need to continue to get better at it.  One way to get better is to understand when Agile (or other) approach may be appropriate, and know how to use it.”  We might then start to look like one profession, and not a collection of competing methods with each new ‘brand’ seeking to undermine the rest.
If you like this Critical path and you are an APM member, make your way over to the APM website and take a look at some of the online archives, or indeed make sure you dip into your monthly Project magazine.  If not, why not join?

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