Charles Cobb on Agile Methods
PMI now offers certification called Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACPSM), and references to 'agile methods' appears in 5th-edition for the first time. As I have no experience with 'agile', I purchased Making Sense of Agile Project Management: Balancing Control and Agility by Charles Cobb and had some correspondence with Mr. Cobb. I wrote to him:
In response, he sent me the following extract from his next book, not yet published.
An issue emphasized in Agile methodology is 'value to the customer'. I noted this comment in 5th-edition on Control Costs, 7.4: 'Monitoring the expenditure of funds without regard to the value of work being performed for such expenditures has little value to the project other than . . .' Could make a good exam question!
Recognize that Agile is not a Solution to Every Problem
If the only tool in your toolkit is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. Whatever methodology you choose needs to fit the situation and should be customized as needed. For example, if I were building a bridge across a river, it might be somewhat ridiculous to take an Agile approach to designing and building the bridge. Imagine this:
That approach probably wouldn’t work very well. If you’re building a bridge, at some point, you probably should have a fairly detailed design to specify how the bridge will be built early in the project. The impact of bad design decisions in the design of the bridge is too significant to leave any room for a trial-and-error approach.
An example of a situation where a pure Agile approach might be problematic is the I-35 Bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007 “dropping cars from the interstate into the 15-foot-deep Mississippi River below, trapping many passengers inside. Before they could escape or emergency help arrived, 13 people died and another 145 were injured in one of the worst bridge disasters in U.S. history”. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that a major cause of the failure of the bridge were weak gusset plates which are components that helped connect steel beams. The gusset plates were designed at only half the required thickness.
This is definitely not a situation where you would want to compromise the due diligence needed to verify that the bridge design meets all applicable safety standards in order to adopt a more Agile approach to get the bridge done more quickly; however, it doesn’t preclude the use of some Agile principles and practices if they are used sensibly: