Another Covid-Era Success Story: New Agile Maturity Model Unveiled

July 8, 2020 | by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

Last week, I shared the story of a new training program developed by PM College with the help of PPP (Payroll Protection Program) funding. I think the example of a business using these disaster relief funds to create new services for customers—services tailor-made for our present circumstances—while keeping employees on the payroll, is just the kind of inspiration we need these days. This week, I'm thrilled to reveal what we have been working on over here on the consulting and research side of PM Solutions.

Announcing: The updated Project Management Maturity Model, now with a new Agile/Adaptive Capability Assessment built in. In addition to making this powerful tool align to the PMBOK® 6, we have looked ahead to the principles-based PMBOK® 7 forthcoming next year, expanding the usefulness of the model and assessments to a wide variety of organizational types and situations. Working with our brilliant consultants—Brad Clark, Sydni Neptune, Alan Fein, and Gary Alvord—during the six-week period covered by the PPP was a crash course in Agile for me. I am humbled by the depth of knowledge assembled in this team. To give you an inside look, I interviewed the lead developer of the Agile portion of the model, PM Solutions managing consultant Brad Clark, PMP. Brad's "Agile journey" began in 2007 with a client who was using Agile techniques on a core application transformation program.  While working with the PMO, he was asked to align Agile and traditional PMO reporting along with performance measures.  This led to his acquiring Certified Scrum Master (CSM) designation in 2010 and leading PM Solutions’ initial efforts in Agile.  Clark says, "My goal was not to be a practicing CSM but to leverage Agile and Scrum beyond I.T.  Since then, I have led efforts to recover and improve Agile efforts that were not delivering the intended value and being part of an Enterprise Agile Transformation responsible for portfolio management and the PMO.  I have helped clients navigate traditional Waterfall and Hybrid approaches and build an Agile Transformation Roadmaps to become an Enterprise Agile organization."

Q. What business pressures led us to create the Agile PMMM?

Clark: The marketplace led us to update the model. From our clients' perspective, a lot of them have moved towards getting away from waterfall and they migrated over to the hybrid world. They were using some agile techniques, but they weren’t “agile.” They were putting their toe in, seeing what they could do, but the more they dealt with it, the more they come to understand that they are not seeing the improvement or agility that they need. That pressure from their own businesses and their customers becomes a pressure on us to look at how we assess organizations.

If we don’t have the appropriate measurements, we can’t assess your organization. And in May of this year we had the opportunity to focus on it.

Q. How does it mesh with our existing Project Management Maturity Model?

Clark: Going into the process, we had to take a step back and look at the existing model. How did we want to approach it? And we had a lot of conversations internally. There are two schools of thought: one is to take an organizational approach, looking at the ability to incorporate Agile into a product or function, then into an organization, then into an enterprise. At the end of the day, when you are enterprise Agile, the whole organization is operating within an Agile mindset: able to quickly adapt to changes in the market, not spend a lot of time upfront gathering requirements. We see it today, with organizations that have scaled Agile, it includes other toolkits, but the goal is agility, whether we are talking about projects, products, programs or portfolios. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity: how do we manage in this environment?

The other approach was to follow PMI’s example in the PMBOK® 6 and align adaptive/agile  to the knowledge areas. That presents some challenges because there’s not a lot of guidance, and there’s not a direct correlation between the Agile world and the knowledge areas.  It took some effort on our part to think about how we would use the model in the field in the way that would be most useful to our clients. Using the model framework, which is familiar and well-understood, but continuing to evolve it.

In the end, our approach was hybrid! The way we updated the model framework, it’s a little too aligned with the knowledge areas for my taste, but it can be used to support that organic growth of agile mindset throughout the organization. And that's so important. You can "turn the aircraft carrier" with enterprise agile. The organization moves from thinking about planning in detail to delivering what customers are actually needing now. So, our model is practical, in that from a delivery perspective, it can help organizations understand where they are in that organic evolution towards enterprise agile, and what steps they can take to transform.

Q. What types of clients or engagements do you foresee using this assessment on?

Clark: The majority of our clients are still waterfall or they are hybrid. I see them dip their toes in and say, we really want to do this Agile thing, we are going to try sprints, but they have not figured it out. Once IT figures it out, the next step is the business integration.

But we do have clients that are the opposite. The business has moved to a product-focused, more adaptive model, yet IT is still waterfall.

Many organizations like the sound of Agile but they haven’t really thought about what it would take to change the organization. I’ve not had any clients that I would consider have totally figured it out. Or, they have a grasp of the concepts but behaviors are still lagging behind. The model describes the behaviors that you need to see happening at each level in order to progress. We took the model and updated our related assessment tools, and now we have, from the consulting perspective, the tools to help clients see where they are and what next steps might be.

For example, we had one client where there was a merger, and one company was waterfall and one was agile. Today, if I had that situation, I could show exactly where the behaviors don’t line up.

The new assessments and updated maturity modeling tool have already been rolled out to the consulting practice; and this week, with J. Kent Crawford,  I begin the task of updating our book to its Fourth Edition, working with our editors at Taylor & Francis/CRC Press. The Project Management Maturity Model, Fourth Edition, is expected to be published by the end of the year. I'll publish a heads-up when pre-orders become available. This edition will feature a less-expensive softcover format in addition to an electronic version for ease of use.

Questions about the new PMMM+Agile? Let me know and I will forward them to the appropriate member of our update team.

About the Author

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin is editor-in-chief for PM Solutions Research, and the author, co-author and editor of over twenty books on project management, including the 2007 PMI Literature Award winner, The AMA Handbook of Project Management, Second Edition.

View Posts by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

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