Why have Agile and Scrum become so popular and valuable in leading and governing projects? What is different about 21st century project management?
As the 4th Industrial Revolution evolves, the use of traditional, base level project management practices such as “waterfall planning” and routine performance reporting have become obsolete. Change has become such a constant during the life cycle of projects that traditional project monitoring and controlling practices have become ineffective.
Today’s projects are so dynamic that leading and governing them is as much about learning, adaptation, and risk management as work completion. As a result, the science of project management is evolving. The tools and practices of governing projects have become more holistic, collaborative and learning based. Project management has become a governance science of inclusion, value creation and growth. It is evolving from its historical basic application of assuring work is completed on plan and schedule to a learning and governance methodology used to navigate change and maximize potential.
Agile is a governance practice used to fast track projects while Scrum is an agile framework for facilitating completion of a project. Collectively, these two approaches for leading and managing a project promote innovation, maximize the use of project resources (technical, human and capital), and promote efficient work completion.
Both Agile and Scrum were created as alternatives to “waterfall” leadership and management of a project. Waterfall is a traditional project planning and governance methodology. It requires detailed up front planning and intense work activity monitoring and reporting to assure plan, budget, and schedule expectations are met.
Agile and Scrum are modern project management methodologies used to govern complex, dynamic projects that undergo constant change throughout their life cycle. These governance approaches facilitate timely stakeholder communications and in the moment decision-making. Using these methodologies involves dividing project work into modules. A project owner is established (Scrum Master, Project Sponsor). A product owner is assigned to be responsible for project outcome quality, and then a project team is formed and empowered to maximize project potential. Project roles and governance practices are customized to business enterprise application needs.
Although routine corporate monitoring of a project is always conducted, actual work monitoring and control is accomplished by daily 15-minute reviews of module work activity by a project team. The project team operates as an autonomous, self-governing group of performers. In this way, all project stakeholders are continually engaged in transforming the influence of change into learning, innovation and work accomplishment.
Project management has evolved into a strategic work execution governance science that requires project managers to embrace constant change, self-direction, autonomous project teamwork, and in the moment problem solving and decision-making. By doing so, learning, continuous improvement and innovation become the catalysts for business enterprise and project success.
Agile and Scrum are terms that declare a transformation of project management practice. Today’s projects have to be defined and executed as high performance learning experiences, not as base level “waterfall” planning and work monitoring events. Completion of projects involves systems thinking, process discipline, ethical decision-making, collaborative teamwork, and self-governance. Contemporary project success has become totally dependent on how a project is strategically led and systematically executed. In the 4th Industrial Revolution, agility, adaptation, learning, innovation, and synergy of effort are keystones for embracing change and transforming marketplace opportunity and potential.
Project managers are no longer organizational pioneers but transformational leaders of change. Their use of project governance methodology can no longer solely focus on monitoring and controlling. 21st century project managers have to plan strategically, be systems thinkers, and use learning to transform risk, ambiguity, and complexity into value creation for the common good.