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Differences in Agile and traditional software project management

What are the differences between Agile and traditional project management?

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Some of the differences will depend on the agile methodology being used and the other roles and responsibilities that are assigned on a team. However, one of the biggest differences that appears universal to all agile methodologies is the concept of embracing change. In traditional project management, the scope of the project is defined and estimated up front, so changes to that scope (referred to as "scope creep") cause problems for the team.

Another difference lays in responsibility and accountability. In many traditional environments, the project manager is held accountable for the success of the project. Many teams operate under the "one throat to choke" rule, in which they feel it's important to have a single person that is held accountable. Agile environments operate in an environment in which the whole team is held responsible for the success or failure of the project.

In Lyssa Adkins' book, "Coaching Agile Teams," she describes the difference between a project manager and the role of an agile coach. "A project manager plans and controls, supervising throughout. A coach guides. A project manager's success equals the success of the project. An agile coach's success equals the team's continual improvement and their pursuit of high performance. The two are focused on completely different things and thus act completely differently."

For more information about the differences between traditional and agile project management styles and challenges, you may find the following content useful: Adaptation in project management through agile Software expert on Agile's rise, avoiding project management mistakes

This was first published in July 2010

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