Bureaucracy is dead, long live agile!

It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time bureaucracy was considered best practice, something to strive towards. In fact bureaucracy allowed organisations to grow much bigger than they had previously. Features including, hierarchical structures, division of labour, strict regulation and rigid chain of command were very much de rigueur. The German sociologist Max Weber admired aspects of modern bureaucracy but also warned of its threat to freedom and creativity. In fact Weber didn’t mince his words and likened increasing bureaucracy to a “polar night of icy darkness” and the overall system as an “iron cage”. Sound familiar? Nowadays, the very mention of bureaucracy is treated with eye rolling disdain and collective despondency.

Weber’s iron cage analogy still resonates strongly in today’s modern workplace. Most people encounter some form of bureaucracy in their daily lives or indeed work for bureaucratic organisations. Could there be a link between the machinations of modern bureaucracy and employee engagement? In a 2017 global workplace survey Gallup revealed that only 15% of employees feel engaged with their work. The report estimated that lost global productivity due to low employee engagement cost employers £5.6 trillion annually. Whilst the rigid controls of bureaucracy cannot take all the blame for low employee engagement it should certainly shoulder some of the responsibility. So how do we break out of the iron cage? Step forward Agile.

For organisations stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire and dealing with a jaded workforce the ‘Agile Way’ can be seen as a beacon of hope. The 2019 State of Agile Report reveals an interesting array of facts about Agile.

Whilst adopting Agile may not be a silver bullet, 64% of survey respondents reported an increase in team morale where Agile practices were implemented. Could Agile make a dent in those 85% of dis-engaged employees reported by Gallup?

One of the most notable changes from last year’s survey is the importance of Customer/User Satisfaction in measuring success. While business value still ranks highly, and there was a 27% increase in respondents realising reduced project costs as a tangible benefit of adopting Agile, Customer/User Satisfaction ranks as the top measure of success for agile initiatives

Other drivers listed by survey respondents for adopting Agile included the ability to manage changing priorities, project visibility, delivery speed, increased team productivity, project predictability and project risk reduction.

The benefits of finding your ‘Agile Zen’ are clear but how can we best enable successful Agile implementation? The latest report asserts that 97% of organisations have initiated agile methodologies in some form. However, competence in adopting Agile successfully was seen as low, with only 17% of respondents claiming high levels of success. Investment is crucial for scaling Agile successfully. The top responses from agile practitioners on the best way to implement successful agile practices were appointing internal agile coaches, executive sponsorship and company-provided training.

So, Bureaucracy might not be dead but Agile is definitely here to stay. If your organisation can invest in Agile then you stand a better chance of breaking free from the iron cage!

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AgilePM versus PRINCE2 Agile

AgilePM was originally a software development methodology. It was conceived in 1994 under a different name, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), to provide more structure to Rapid-application development in software projects. Nowadays the AgilePM framework has spread it's wings and is used to great effect managing business change across all industry sectors. It is the oldest established Agile framework and revised in 2007.

Using an Agile methodology you learn to embrace an iterative and incremental approach to project management. This results in a gradual improvement of the product whilst keeping the customer engaged throughout the project lifecycle. This approach is a far cry from the inflexible restrictions of a pure waterfall model where changes to requirements and product re-design are less readily accommodated. An Agile approach allows practitioners to anticipate change and uncertainty within the project lifecycle.

The history of AgilePM and PRINCE2 Agile

Perhaps surprisingly, the origins of PRINCE2 are closely intertwined with the creators of the AgilePM framework, APMG. PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) was launched in 1996 and owned solely by the UK government. APMG were chosen to administrate the PRINCE2 framework on behalf of the government; writing the syallabi, exams and accrediting trainers. APMG administered the PRINCE2 framework alongside it's own AgilePM product line until 2013. In the summer of 2013, the UK government sold the rights for PRINCE2, to Axelos ltd, a joint venture between the UK government and Capita. However, Axelos, the new owners of PRINCE2 had a problem, everyone was clamouring for Agile and they didn't have a product offering to match the market demand. Enter stage right, PRINCE2 Agile, which was launched in June 2015 and heralded as the world's most complete agile project management solution.

AgilePM can be split into to two qualifications; AgilePM Foundation and AgilePM Practitioner. You must pass the foundation exam before progressing to the practitioner course but otherwise there are no pre-requisites. There are a couple of exceptions, if you hold either a DSDM Atern Foundation certificate, or alternatively, an Advanced Practitioner certificate you can skip Foundation and advance straight to the Practitioner course.

AgilePM and PRINCE2 Agile similarities

There are a lot of similarities between AgilePM and Prince2 Agile which again is not surprising given the history involved. PRINCE2 Agile also has Foundation and Practitioner courses and whilst there are no pre-requisites to take the PRINCE2 Agile Foundation course there are pre-requisites for those wishing to sit the Practitioner course. The Practitioner course is limited to candidates who possess the following certifications:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation (or higher)
  • PRINCE2 Agile Foundation
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • IPMA Levels A,B,C and D (Certified Projects Director)
  • .

So, what's the difference? Well, here's the thing, they are both very similar and again it's not all that surprising given the history involved. For instance, one framework extols the '8 Principles' whilst the other '8 Guidance Points'. Both have their own versions of a product backlog, use the MoSCoW prioritisation technique and timeboxes. Again, this shouldn't be surprising given that they both focus on Agile. If you were to look for a fundamental difference then you could point out that PRINCE2 Agile was designed to work with any agile method whilst AgilePM stands alone.

What course do I choose, AgilePM or PRINCE2 Agile?

It really does depend heavily on individual and organisational circumstance. If you're already on the path to a PRINCE2 certification then it makes more sense to continue your education within the PRINCE2 family of products. If the organisation you work for already uses PRINCE2, which is extremely common in UK local and central government, then again extending your knowledge with PRINCE2 Agile makes sense. If you, or your organisation, are starting from a fresh perspective then there is an argument for choosing AgilePM as it is the more established framework. However, that can be countered with PRINCE2 Agile being more up to date. See, it's not easy!

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