How to get Agile experience as a project manager? Just start

Tim felt in a Catch-22 situation. He wanted to break into Agile, however, without experience he had little chance of landing a job running an Agile project. He felt stuck and wanted help to find a way forward. My advice – just start.

Tim had a strong background in traditional programme and project management. He’d run big programmes. He’d run projects. But he’d done this in a traditional mode. He felt pretty good about his ability to deliver.

Now, with Agile becoming mainstream, Tim wanted to get some Agile experience. Trouble is, he couldn’t see how. The Catch-22 was, from Tim’s perspective, that to get an Agile job he needed Agile experience but to get the Agile experience he needed an Agile job. If he could get some Agile experience he could get a job as an Agile programme / project manager and then he’d have the Agile experience necessary to get the job. Gotcha.

My advice was to just start. Don’t wait for a job with the title. Don’t want for permission. Just start. In practice that would mean getting a job as a programme / project manager. Any job. Any programme / project. Even with/for people who expected a traditional approach.

Then start applying Agile principles and Agile practices. Not all of them. Not even necessarily your favourite ones. Only introduce those elements of Agile that make sense for the context.

You don’t want to risk your job to you’ll have to be able to justify what you do to your stakeholders including the people who are paying you. You don’t even have to talk about “Agile”. Agile is not the point. Effective is. And the new practices you introduce will be effective.

Here are a few practices to get you going that are easy to justify on effectiveness:
– Daily stand up
– Planning horizons
– Frequent delivery
– Retrospectives

Then go from there.

Just start.

This post is part of my What do I do When … ? series. Please drop me a line or add a comment if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.

1 thought on “How to get Agile experience as a project manager? Just start

  1. what is your advice of getting the relevant “1,500 hours (gained in at least 8 months within the last 3 years) of Agile project experience*” to be eligible for writing the PMI-ACP exam?

    It is the same catch 22 situation you describe above.

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