For a project to be truly successful, its management strategy must be flexible enough to adapt to dynamic and rapidly evolving business needs.
Making Sense of Agile Project Management helps project managers think outside the box by presenting a deep exploration of agile principles, methodologies, and practices.
Straying from traditional bureaucratic procedures that are rigidly defined, this book espouses a heavy reliance on the training and skill of collaborative, cross-functional teams to adapt the methodology to the problem that they are attempting to solve.
Making Sense of Agile Project Management employs a straightforward approach that enables project managers to grasp concepts quickly and develop adaptable management tools for creating a vibrant and fluid business environment. By utilizing the principles laid out in this book, business managers and leaders will strengthen their ability to meet the risks and complexities of any individual project—and better understand how to blend the appropriate balance of control and agility into an overall business strategy.
Review By: Paul A. Szulewski 02/20/2012
Charles Cobb’s Making Sense of Project Management: Balancing Control and Agility is not the first book on the topic, nor will it be the last. What differentiates this book from its predecessors is its focus on doing what makes sense instead of blindly following a standard process. What make sense is usually not strictly agile, but the appropriate lean blend of agile and traditional methods. Pure agile is characterized by concepts like Scrum and stories, while traditional methodologies usually involve some variant of the waterfall lifecycle.
The book is divided into two major parts. The first part describes what agile is and isn't. The author cites several previous authors of agile project management and traditional project management. He asserts that every endeavor requiring project management, regardless of methodology, has a few key activities, including planning, prioritization of requirements, risk management, and the management of uncertainty. The authors provides tabular comparisons of methods used to accomplish the key project management activities to show how the different methods may accomplish the same ultimate goals but have different implications in both the project and business dimensions.
Part 2 gets to the details of implementation, but Cobb keeps the discussion to strategic rather than tactical advice. He illustrates examples of sensible solutions through use-case scenarios and case studies. The author defers to other texts in the field for tactical methods, though he tends to go a bit deeper into software lifecycles.
The best features of the book are the visual diagrams and tables, and in particular a diagram that shows the relationships among project characteristics and business considerations to help you decide which method makes sense for a particular project.
The bottom line is that pure agile is not always the sensible choice, and a blend of agile with lean traditional methods generally is the way to go. The author calls for project managers to consider agile methods and for the Project Management Institute (PMI) to embrace agile methods in the next revision of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Making Sense of Project Management will be most useful to open-minded project managers who are willing to take a chance on sensibility.
Review By: Jennifer Flamm 02/20/2012
Making Sense of Agile Project Management: Balancing Control and Agility by Charles Cobb is an excellent guide for anyone interested in learning more about agile project management and how it relates to a traditional development approach.
It provides a comprehensive analysis of the similarities and differences in approach between agile and traditional project management methodologies. I enjoyed how Cobb encourages the reader to understand the methodologies and develop a methodology that works for the needs of his or her project. Overall, I found the book to be easy to understand because Cobb is very good at explaining how to get started with an agile project management approach. His frequent use of tables, lists, and supplemental excerpts from other books make the chapters easy to use as a reference.
The book is divided into two sections. Part 1 discusses how to fit agile methodologies into a business strategy. For anyone interested in becoming more agile, chapter 3 is a must read. It provides a balanced analysis of the benefits and tradeoffs. Everyone could find something to improve upon from this chapter.
If you are looking for a concrete example, chapter 4 is a case study of the approach taken by Sapient. At the start of chapter 4, Cobb emphasizes the important difference between paying lip service to a new methodology versus actually adapting the methodology as an organization. Anyone who has been faced with the latest corporate “initiatives” will recognize the importance of this distinction.
Part 2 of this book helps the reader understand how to effectively implement an agile strategy. Chapter 6 provides a comparison between agile and traditional project management roles and discusses how an agile approach applies to the Project Management Body of Knowledge guide. Chapters 7 and 8 provide more insight about how to apply these approaches to the software development lifecycle.
Surprisingly, I found the appendix section at the end to be quite useful. The appendix is a good reference for a quick overview of agile development practices complete with pros, cons, and risks, as well as the limitations of each practice. Additionally, the appendix discusses agile project delivery frameworks and does a very good job of defining terms and providing examples for roles and responsibilities. The additional reading section (page 228) is buried in the middle of appendix B but should have been given more prominence. Many of these works are quoted extensively throughout Cobb’s book and are excellent resources for someone who wants to learn more.
I strongly recommend this book for project managers and for anyone interested in applying agile methodologies to a more general business strategy.