Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products by Jim Highsmith, ISBN: 0321219775

Reviewed by: Thomas V. Kappel, PMP, December 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Addison Wesley Professional, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: $34.99

There always seem to be new project management processes, techniques and systems coming along which are designed to change whatever methods are being used today. Perhaps it happens because there is so much cost overrun, schedule overrun, and project failure with current project management systems? Now, along comes this Agile Revolution and Agile Project Management (APM) and yet another new way to approach project management appears on the horizon and I can hear a collective groan go up from Project Managers.

All those groaning project managers have just spent considerable time and money establishing a Project Management Office (PMO) and obtaining their Project Management Certification (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and, of course, getting buy-in on the process from their company and everyone else. Do they want to make a change now? Probably not, but they should certainly check out the Agile Project Management process because there is a lot of interesting information, good ideas, and food for thought for any project manager (PM). Remember, change can be good.

The basic starting point for examining Agile Project Management in this 277 page book is the premise that current project management processes are primarily anticipatory and don't sufficiently meet the need for the sort of highly adaptive processes which better serve today’s rapidly changing business, technology and rising cost markets. Projects need to be agile,with agility being defined as “the ability to both create and respond to change in order to profit in a turbulent business environment.” Author Jim Highsmith, a highly regarded project management guru, also states “This switch plays havoc with engineers, project managers and executives who are still operating with anticipatory, prescriptive mindsets and processes geared to a rapidly disappearing era.”

Agile project management processes are interesting indeed therefore, especially for those of us who have worked in an anticipatory environment where early on in a project we've captured user requirements and needs, created the plans and schedules and started the project only to find out that many changes were needed and were difficult or impossible to make in our somewhat rigid methodology. Jim Highsmith argues in the book that “Linear thinking, prescriptive processes and standardized, unvarying practices are no match for today’s volatile product development environment. So as product development processes swing from anticipatory to adaptive, project management must change also.”

The APM process is outlined in a framework of five phases: envision, speculate, explore, adapt and close. The book goes into great detail on each of these phases and identifies specific practices for each phase. There are 18 practices identified among the 5 phases. Agile practices are defined in the book in a very long paragraph, but they are considered a “system of practices.” As an example, in the Explore phase is a practice titled “Daily Team Integration Meetings.” The techniques specific to these practices are outlined and explained with an objective and a discussion. Also, to make the book an easier and fun read, many of the chapters open with a conversation taking place between two project managers as a lead-in to the main topic of the chapter.

Truth be told, the current anticipatory project management process is somewhat inflexible and is not versatile enough to easily handle changing requirements and user expectations without additional cost, work or that horror "Scope Creep".

(Ed. Note: Scope Creep is truly a modern corporate horror defined as incremental change demanded by a stakeholder who can't be refused, and which negatively stresses the original project definition, schedule and budget. Scope Creep happens when design, development or production processes are interrupted by a product manager, company leader, investor or other authority hollering last-minute or even mid-project for a new feature or function or design change motivated by some strategic partnership, market movement, investor demand, etc.).

Projects that develop and implement over a number of years in today’s rapidly changing technological environment do run the risk of being obsolete when they are finished. Agility, adaptability, quick response to change and fast time to implementation or to market is sorely needed in today’s PM process. Agile Project Management is certainly worth examining. I think many successful project managers may find they already employ many of these phases and practices to some degree anyhow. Good PMs will likely be very interested in new thoughts, concepts, ideas and processes that make their job easier and make them more successful. Give Agile Project Management a read if that’s the case. It is interesting and recommended.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to:




© Copyright 2000-2006 All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe