Developments in Agile Project Management – Part 2
July 11, 2007
In my last post I outlined some thoughts for an upcoming PMI presentation. Today I’ll introduce the first two concepts: “Accreditation” and “Appeal to Generation Y”, then will cover the last three topics in a later post and attach the final paper with the “Why Agile?” introduction.
As always I welcome feedback and suggestions for improvements.
Where traditional project management has certifications like PMP and PRINCE2 Practitioner, agile methods are adopting more formal accreditation schemes also. Currently the agile methods: Scrum, DSDM, and FDD have accreditation schemes and recently there have been discussions about additional programs and multi-disciplinary (not just one agile method) accreditations.
However, this is not without great debate and consternation, as for many people in the agile community, certification represent the centralized control that agile methods liberate workers from. For these people creating accreditation schemes represents: commercialization, profit chasing, and rewarding the wrong behaviours. Yet for others, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate their level of knowledge and agile methods experience, it can also provide a study program for self directed learning, and perhaps a low benchmark for hiring decisions.
The Agile Alliance and the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) are two volunteer lead groups that promote agile methods, organize conferences and help steward the successful application of agile methods. The boards of both groups are populated by experienced agile practitioners and have discussed the idea of endorsing certification schemes. The Agile Alliance decided not to get involved in the agile certification business and instead issued a statement that “…employers should have confidence only in certifications that are skill based and difficult to achieve.”
Within the APLN, the board has been split on whether or not to lead the development of such a program. However, at the Salt Lake APLN board meeting in February 2007 a motion made by Alistair Cockburn “The APLN commits to lead and support the creation, implementation, and evolution of an accreditation program for Agile Project Leaders based on design criteria including the DOI, with a draft proposal published by August 15, 2007” passed 10 votes to 3.
It was felt that if more agile certification was inevitable then the APLN was well positioned to do it right.
Weaknesses in current schemes were examined which included:
• lack of a difficult test
• lack of peer review and endorsement of candidates in the assessment process
• a closed models to the body of knowledge
To correct these deficiencies a Learning and Recognition group was formed to create a better accreditation program that incorporated testing, case study submission, interviews, and peer review against an open and evolving framework of agile leadership competencies. This is an ambitious target and while the sub-group has made steady progress since February, other board members are now re-questioning parts of the initiative. At the time of writing this, a survey is being drafted to canvas APLN membership on the direction this work should take.
Appeal to the Generation Y workforce
This development is not so much how agile has evolved, but instead how the workforce has evolved to embrace agile. The younger members of today’s workforce (the Gen Y’s and Millennials) are characterized by a different set of motivational factors and workplace expectations than their older counterparts. Research by Glenn Tobe found that while older workers value characteristics such as:
• job security
• good wages
• promotion opportunities
Younger workers ranked the following motivators higher:
• feeling in on things
• understanding attitude
While it is wrong to assume that all workers from a certain era are motivated by a consistent set of factors, it is surprising how often these preferences dominate.
Agile methods recommend and encourage a set of working practices that happen to align very well with the Gen Y motivations. Practices such as frequent retrospectives where team members are recognized and thanked for their contributions and asked how the process can be improved for the next iteration appeal to the younger generations needs for appreciation and feeling in on things.
Obviously, good managers of the most traditional style projects know how to manage younger workers and can add the appropriate recognition steps to their projects, but by having the steps hard-wired into the methodology, the not-so-good managers and organizations are practicing these steps also. As a result agile methods are gaining popularity with younger workers. This is occurring to the extent that young software developers are looking for agile based organizations when selecting employers and contracts.
In the future we can expect to see many of the empowered team practices promoted by agile methods becoming more widely accepted and demanded. The command-and-control direction of workers via Gantt charts and task lists are hang-overs from a workplace dominated by industrial revolution style thinking. New team engagement models have emerged that better utilize worker planning skills and tap into the motivational factors of the largest demographic group to ever enter the workforce.
<Please check back for the next instalment on the remaining topics of Leadership, Tool and Process integration, and Lean Six Sigma integration.>
Don't forget that what appeals to gen y works now may not appeal to them in 20-30 years - or even 10. Don't you think this is not just generation influenced, but also age influenced?
Also remember that the 'older' generation in the software development field is hardly a product of the industrial revolution, but rather of an era of evolution from mainframe to PC, and of the waterfall method, which solved some problems that are disappearing.
Posted by: John Reiling | January 10, 2008 at 05:26 PM
I agree the Gen. Y workers may well change their motivational preferences as they get older. As people mature many progress from idealistic, to realistic, (and unfortunately for some fatalistic). However this will take some time and until then we should not underestimate the (current) demands of a large population segment poised to enter the job market.
As for the “industrial revolution” comment, this was a reference to Peter Drucker, who said that we still manage people using control processes left over from the industrial revolution. So while our work is centred on information and communication, many companies and PM approaches focus on division of labour, conformance to standards, and rates of task completion that do not map well onto software development work. I should probably explained myself more fully, I can see now why it appeared odd.
Thanks for reading and your comments.
Posted by: Mike Griffiths | January 10, 2008 at 05:54 PM