3 Reasons Your Project Managers Don’t like Agile Development and 3 Tips to Fix It

If you are planning to adopt Agile Development practices, chances are, you will encounter resistance from your project management team (possibly the Project Management Office), especially if they are operating with traditional/Waterfall approach. What are some of the reasons that they will not support this change, and what can you do about them? Let’s take a closer look.

Reason #1 – Too much freedom

Agile Development

Agile Development encourages the practice of “self-management” and “self-organization”, but is this truly possible for all organizations? I would argue that while this is a great goal to aspire towards, most organizations will need years to achieve this at a big scale. More importantly, the perception is what you must deal with when it comes to acceptance from your project management team because they will likely believe that the team members will have free reign to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Tip to address – Agile Development often carries a misconception that there is no discipline. If your project management team feels this way, you will need to educate them and demonstrate the rigor that Agile actually brings to the table.

Reason #2 – Lack of control

As a former project manager myself, I recall the illusion of authority that I felt in some projects that gave me a sense of control. Although that control is limited at best, I felt comfortable with it and I knew what my job required of me. Within the Agile world, the project manager role can be difficult to define and understand, which will likely lead to a sense of lack of control. For example, if a project is no longer bound by schedule or scope, what does the project manager do? Are change control boards (CCBs) still required in an Agile project? Is the project manager now expected to play the role of the Scrum Master? All of these unknowns can create fear and stress for your project management team.

Tip to address – Having clarity in the role of the project manager is crucial in your efforts to adopt Agile development practices. You may benefit from converting some of the project team to Scrum Masters, assuming they are interested in making the change and have the right aptitude. If not, you will need to define the overall project team structure so that everyone is contributing towards the end goal.

Reason #3 – Progress is difficult to gauge

Traditional projects usually have rigid schedules, milestones, and detailed assignments that provide a forecast of how work will be executed. More often than not, this schedule usually becomes a fictional prediction that turns out to be incorrect, but it can still offer some focus to the team doing the work. Creating a master schedule with variable scope and unclear milestones may be the worst thing you can ask of your project management staff. This will likely create a lot of stress and grief for them.

Tip to address – To keep your project management team engaged and motivated, help them build a project release plan with tentative milestone dates. Leverage their experience in the domain as well as their relationship with stakeholders and customers so that they can help communicate progress not only with electronic messaging, but interpersonal messaging.

To sum up, if you can get project managers on your side of an Agile adoption, you have achieved a significant success that is worth celebrating! Your project management team can provide tremendous support and become champions for your efforts. Don’t expect change to happen overnight, so be patient and persistence, and as usual, seek help from experienced experts where needed!

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai