Agile And PMI: It Is Not A Competition

October 31, 2011


A few months ago, I decided to embrace reality.  I decided to volunteer for the Community Editorial Board for Project Management Institute (PMI) Agile Community of Practice.   While I have been a member of the PMI for many years, I never pursued my project management certification (PMP).  I work in one of the few industries where having a PMP can be a detriment to my resume, plus I have been doing more people/business management than project management.  In addition, the PMI is not exactly known for having an Agile philosophy.  So why would I volunteer?

Well, having PMI certification has become the be all and end all in project management and management circles… outside the video game industry in Montreal.  Someone actually told me that I knew nothing just because I have spent the past six years in video games.  Considering I have been spending that time introducing my peers to various practices I had learned prior to video games, that became a challenge to prove him wrong.  At the same time, the PMI decided to embrace Agile and introduce a certification for Agile practitioners.  While this has generated quite a strong debate and reaction in the Agile Community, I thought it was a good time to be a part of building bridges between two traditionally opposing communities.

So far I have enjoyed my time editing the community blog.  I have approached a number of writers to republish their articles and the response has been very positive.  Many Project Managers, ScrumMasters and Agilists are happy to share their ideas and recognize the opportunity to reach out to a global community.  Seeing how many views the articles are getting and watching the community grow, it’s clear that there is an interest to learn more about Agile values and techniques.

I also realized that it is not a competition between the Agile communities and the PMI.   The more bridges we build, the more the two communities can complement each other.  The PMI has been around for over 40 years and has over half a million members in over 185 countries.  Its tools and practices have been accepted and adopted by governments and highly regulated industries that are compelled to be bureaucratic.  While that has directly influenced the culture of the PMI, it has also made it the mainstream, by definition.  When the mainstream adopts a concept, it means that it has reached a certain level of maturity and it can be applied broadly.  If a new standard is going to be set, it must be broadly adopted by the mainstream, but change will be slow due to the enormous size of the audience.  The Agile communities (Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance, to name a few) are smaller, more nimble.  If their core values are truly the same as the Agile Manifesto, they will bring value their members and attract new members by demonstrating those values while pushing the boundaries of product development and management practices.   We need the smaller communities to try new techniques, iterate on them, evolve them and introduce them to the mainstream once the bugs have been worked out.  The mainstream then brings those techniques to the most conservative.

It’s not a competition.  It’s the flow of progress.

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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7 Comments on “Agile And PMI: It Is Not A Competition”

  1. Dave Says:

    Great post. As a PMP and an agile advocate I have heard and participated in several arguments related to this topic. It shouldn’t be a competition. I’ve implemented several solutions using waterfall and agile and seen both work extremely well. Agile, for me, has delivered value sooner and more consistently than traditional waterfall methods.

    From a project perspective I tend to view agile methods more on the execution end. There are several built in philosophies of agile that mesh easily with PMI. Communication is the biggest one. Continuous communication between customers and development teams provides the opportunity to deliver what’s valuable, or at least to fail cheaper.


    • Liza Says:

      Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience, Dave. You’re right. Communication is the main philosophy that Agile and PMI have in common. No matter the affiliation, though, it seems to be the toughest to put into practice.


  2. Bertolt Says:

    Why would PMP certification be a detriment in the video game industry?


    • Liza Says:

      The PMI and PMPs have a reputation of being bureaucratic with heavy, slow processes that can only apply when you know exactly what you’re building. Many video games are developed on the edge of complete chaos. Considering the budgets of the large projects ($20M+) or the cost pressures of the small projects (<$1M), there is a need for more discipline, but the culture rebels because of the perception that it conflicts with creativity. Fortunately, there are many teams finding a happy medium with Agile techniques 🙂



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