Do Agilists really think we are dumb?

Do Agilists really think we are dumb?

In the past, I did write a few articles about Agile and we tried to clarify the difference between Agile (as a movement) versus agile practices (as in being dynamic)

You can find these articles here:

Key Messages

The key messages that we shared before are:

  1. We do not doubt the value of Agile for software development
  2. We do know and understand that some agile practices (agility) are useful on many projects
  3. However, Agile Methods cannot work on capital projects and numerous other types. What we mean here is depending on a given Agile Method (Like Scrum, DSDM, etc.) is the main method to use


Another key message that we tried to share, which irritates many of us, and by us I mean people who have worked in the REAL world, practicing REAL project management, on REAL projects. The use of “REAL” is in contrast to leading technical tasks or handling a piece of a project and maybe from a commercial – service provider perspective – rather than a project owner perspective.

The annoying part is that there are Agilists (Agile Advocates) who try to convince us that Agile is for all projects —- or most projects – most of the time. Further, they try to justify their words by dumping and criticizing “traditional project management”; what they mistakenly label as Waterfall. These people trying to rise by attempting to destroy something that is useful and helped us deliver projects successfully for decades.

REAL Project Management

These Agilists do not understand that REAL project management (traditional) is Adaptive and has always been. They do not understand that REAL PM is about being dynamic, where feasible, and require significant stakeholders management. REAL PM is about delivering value and realizing benefits. Many of these terms refer to what Agilists claim to be Agile Practices and they forget that they have stolen these concepts from REAL PM.

I do not mean to dump but one has to face these non-sense comments and it is time to go beyond Waterfall and Agile. Before we close, i just want to share a few statements from a book on PMI-ACP (I will not name the book for now).

Some Examples

These are some of the statements used to justify Agile.

“Just because we can enter a developer’s estimate into an expensive scheduling tool does not alter the fact that it maybe a lousy estimate”. Really? Of course, if we have an incompetent person we can get a lousy estimate – so is the assumption that planners, schedulers, and project managers are incompetent and cannot deliver a good estimate or plan? This sounds like a lazy student excuse trying to convince his/her parents that studying is bad since the book they are using might have a typo.

The book goes on trying to convince us, that using a board, like Kanban, is much better than using “sophisticated schedule”. I would love to see how one can use a Kanban board to manage to build a hospital and deliver it within the cost and schedule parameters. “Moving cards” is more than enough.

Another message in the book on PMI-ACP, this note is about Earned Value. “… Earned Value … does not truly indicate whether the project is successful. We could be on time and on budget, but building a horrible low quality product that the business does not like or need”

I do not know what to say in response to this last point. Are these guys saying that following traditional project management does not include following proper feasibilities and projects selections? Is delivering successful projects an Agile exclusive matter? Are the Agilists telling us that to deliver projects that the business need is an Agile Practice and it is not a Waterfall or traditional PM practice?

There are much more examples like the above. The way I read them is that these Agilists are incompetent project managers, they do not know how to estimate or plan, they do not know how to conduct real feasibility studies, etc. So, they cover their competence by trying to convince us that REAL project management is bad for your health and Agile is the way to go, when the project finish or at what cost, that is not relevant since there is no plan or real budget. There might be a bank account with a fixed amount – we use the money until it runs out but that is not budgeting.

Closing Comments

I have to close by saying – numerous agile practices are good and useful but supporting REAL project management, Concepts like Kanban board or lean or staging work has always been used for capital projects and REAL project management. Maybe we did not use the word Agile – we used adaptive, dynamic, flexible, and did not use the word Kanban, instead we used Monthly and Weekly Look Ahead Plans. We did not use sprints but we used rolling wave planning. We did not use daily sprints but we use “Tool Box Meetings”, etc.

Once again, it is time to go beyond waterfall and agile and get back to REAL –Adaptive– Project Management.

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About Mounir Ajam

A Project Management thought leader, who believes that project management touches all people, in all aspects of life; personal and professional.Initiated and led the formation of SUKAD Corp to develop the Uruk PPM Platform.An advocate of real-world, practical and applied project management.Champion of adaptive project management, tailored methods, and organizational project management.Available anywhere in the world to advise executives and organizations on the strategic value of project management. Ready to help organizations build and sustain the Project Management Function and the capacity to lead projects successfully.