The objective of this book is to outline the values, principles, and practices of Agile Project Managementto describe what I believe constitutes a better approach to project management within a specific context, which I will also endeavor to describe. If this context does not fit your organization, then APM may not be for you. However, if the context does fit, you may find that the concepts and practices of APM will help you achieve your goals of delivering innovative products to customers and improving your work environment.
Many, if not most, of the practices of APM are not new. Iterative lifecycle development, for example, has been around since the 1950s (Larman 2004). Good practices for building a project community have developed steadily over the years. Fundamental project management practices have evolved, and many are useful in fast-moving, rapidly changing projects.
There are fewer than 20 practices described in this book. Why, then, are there 1,500-page project management books with dozens, if not hundreds, of practices? Is something missing here? One of the key concepts of agile project management and development is that the practices, when driven by guiding principles, are generative, not prescriptive. Prescriptive methodologies attempt to describe every activity a project team should do. The problem with prescriptive approaches is that people get lost. They have much to choose from and so little guidance as to applicability that they have trouble eliminating extraneous practices from their projects.
A set of generative practices is a minimal set that works well together as a system. It doesn't prescribe everything a team needs to do, but it identifies those practices that are of extremely high value and should be used on nearly every project. By employing these practices, project teams will "generate" other necessary supporting practices as part of their tailoring and adapting the set to fit their unique needs. Starting with a minimal set of practices and judiciously adding others as needed has proven to be more effective than starting with comprehensive prescriptive practices and attempting to streamline them down to something usable (Boehm and Turner 2003).
So is APM new? Well, yes and no. Complexity theory tells us that biological agents evolve by recombining existing building blocks until a different organism emerges. APM involves carefully selecting existing building blockspractices that have proven useful to project teams in the pastand linking these practices to core values, a set of guiding principles, and a conceptual framework that draws on CAS theory as its foundation. The "combination" of all these building blockspractices, values, principles, and conceptual frameworkresults in Agile Project Management. APM draws on a rich project management legacy, but it is very selective about which parts of that legacy it incorporates. APM also draws on a rich legacy of management, manufacturing, and software development literature and practice that incorporates a worldview and ideological foundation better suited to mobility and speed.
APM isn't for everyone or every project; it is not a universal best practice. APM works well for certain problem types, in certain types of organizations, with people who have a particular cultural perspective, and for managers who have a certain worldview. It thrives in innovative cultures and on projects in which speed, mobility, and quality are all key to success, such as in product development. APM is not defined by a small set of practices and techniques. It defines a strategic capability to create and respond to change, to balance flexibility and structure, to draw creativity and innovation out of a development team, and to lead organizations through turbulence and uncertainty.