PMBOK and PMI have long focused on traditional project management techniques – developing work breakdown structures, linking tasks to build a network, estimating effort, assigning resources, levling, scheduling, forward passes, backward passes, slack etc. etc. etc. This stuff works, no doubt about it, but it works best for projects not many of us really work on in the corporate world.
Traditional project management requires that the practictioners and stakeholders have the right level of expert knowledge and understanding. For example to build a WBS to build a sky scraper, with sufficient detail to ensure all required and ancillary tasks are identified, requires someone who has built a skyscraper before, and probably a bunch of experts that know about construction, architecture, logistics, politics etc.
Many of us may never really work on such a project. In the corporate world, a lot of the projects you are faced with are implementing something new and unique. Even software development projects tend to be unique due to the speed of technology change. Building a WBS structure and spending a bunch of time upfront building a comprehensive task list may not be realistic, as tasks aren’t quite clear as to what needs to happen down the road.
Agile Project Management (also known as Agile Scrum Methodology) is an excellent choice for managing projects that have rapid time frames or unclear requirements. Under Agile, the methodology is very simple – communicate often, don’t let planning get in the way of doing, and give the experts the power, not the management.
A team would define a short period of time to execute on tasks, called a sprint – typically one to two weeks. The team spends time talking everyday to build the list of tasks to accomplish during the sprint. Within the team there are very clear roles of who is accountable for requirements and approval of work (the product owner) and those actually doing the work. All other stakeholders (managers, end users, political influencers) take non-speaking roles, requiring all communication through the product owner.
I would recommend that everyone spend a bit more time learning about Agile project managment – while considered a software development process, it is a great tool to have in your toolkit and readily adaptable to several project scenarios.