PMI-Montréal project management blog

Minister Poëti and the limits of Agile

Author :  Louis Duchesne

I'm a fan of agile methods and I believe that many of the principles of the Manifesto can be used favorably in projects other than IT or software. The transposition of these principles does, however, have its limits and I was provided with a good example recently.

The Minister of Transportation, Robert Poëti, was giving a speech, which I attended, in the context of a convention. Beyond a very effective performance on the importance of different stakeholders working and collaborating better together, Mr. Poëti touched on a particularly important point when he related a speech he had made on the occasion of the inauguration of the East Train. 



It was explained to the Minister that some train stop shelters, as well as other secondary elements would be missing, but the train would be functional. Mr. Poëti therefore informed the audience that he would follow suit, and read only 90% of the speech, omitting the usual congratulatory comments. His point of view is that the public transportation agencies try by any means to create a “transportation experience” for the travelers, in order to keep them as clients, as well as increase the number of users. This “experience”, is the icing on the cake, or, as Mr. Desrosiers of the STM calls it, the “apple pie”, or in the words of our PMI director, “The wow factor”.



His perspective and reasoning made me aware of how much certain principles of Agile methods can differ from reality when we are discussing engineering projects. Whereas one of the principles of Agile is to concentrate on what adds value and to forget about the rest, the success of an engineering project is often judged by the finishing touches, the last steps to bring the project to a 100% completion. The value of a new software is to deliver the best functionalities quickly and put it on the market, however, when dealing with an engineering project, “functional” doesn’t cut it and will not get people clapping.


What all of this demonstrates is that we must take into account the nature and reality of a project before saying that a particular approach is the best, especially when this approach is currently the fashionable way of doing things. Agile principles are an attractive prospect, sure, but the rendering of these principles must be considered in context with the nature of any given project.


This is both the beauty and the challenge of project management: avoiding dogma and choosing the most pertinent solution, all the while knowing that the key to success is often found in the application!