Adaptive project management: Book review

I read Andy Silber’s Adaptive project management: Leading complex and uncertain projects.

I had the chance to meet Andy at the PMI Global Conference in Chicago and to attend his session on adaptive project management. Silber’s coverage of the shortcomings of predictive project management for projects with uncertainty is solid, but even before leaving Chicago, I realized there was a conflict between Silber’s take on the support for risk management with agile methods and that of agile leaders and practitioners whom I met with and heard present at PMI Global. In one of the book's chapters, Silber describes why agile approaches don’t work well with highly complex projects. I don’t understand why Silber doesn’t note the successful uses of agile approaches outside of software or SaaS management. Second, during his session, Dr. Silber noted the limits of agile in risk management. My understanding here is that each risk should be identified, analyzed, and prioritized in the backlog - thus, risk management is better supported in agile approaches than represented in this book.

Silber’s background is relevant to understanding his recommended approach – an astrophysicist, a PMP, and a manager deeply experienced in leading technology hardware projects. These hardware projects have attributes – for example, very high cost for a prototype delivery – that Silber asserts do not map well to either predictive or agile approaches.

Silber’s book is short, but it’s good reading for those interested in project management generally, and in agile approaches specifically. For projects with high uncertainty and complexity, Dr. Silber recommends adaptive project management, which draws on the best tools in both predictive and agile approaches. Silber does provide specifics on the adaptive project management approach (for example, in the chapter “Building a schedule”).

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