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APM Delivers Nothing

I’m reading Jim Highsmith’s book Agile Project Management. It’s a good book, as the frequent use of my marker pen shows, except for maybe this one sentence:

“APM reliably delivers innovative results to customers within cost and schedule constraints.”

Let me take that sentence out of its context and make a point I believe needs to be stressed. Software development methodologies (Agile Project Management in this case) delivers nothing! People, on the other hand, do.

Some years ago I developed a special interest in software development methodologies. Since then I’ve spent much time reading literature on Scrum, eXtreme Programming, etc, aiming to optimize the processes we use in our projects. During that time I’ve learned a lot, but also come to realize that I’ve been focusing too much on the wrong things.

In the past I thought the problems we were experiencing were problems with the methodology, an easy conclusion to draw from the propaganda-like information out there. However, I’ve found that the methodology matters little in comparison to the quality of my project team. Today I focus more on the team, the product, and the customer, and less on the latest within agile.

Thus, my formula for a successful project is this:

  • Spend less energy on the methodology; i.e. pick a simple one and adapt it when (and only when) needed, or stick to the one you’re currently using
  • Do more to get the right people
  • Make sure they are motivated and connected
  • If you think you’ll fail, do it fast


If we focus too much on the methodology, and give it too much importance, we risk loosing sight on the real goal, namely producing the right system. And for that you need the right people.