Embracing the Agile Mindset in Any Project Environment



By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA

In our 2021 UMD Virtual Project Management Symposium, Jeff Beverage, Educator and CEO, spoke on “Embracing the Agile Mindset in Any Project Environment” for his presentation. And we would like to share this valuable information with you.

Jeff Beverage is a project management trainer who spends much of his time teaching the Federal Acquisitions certification in Program Project Management. Jeff acknowledges that we have a lot more knowledge than we did 10-15 years ago, but there still is a wide misconception held that Agile is a separate discipline that not everyone needs to worry about. On the contrary, the Agile mindset can be embraced and benefited from in any project environment.

The mindset shift between a waterfall, or predictive, setting to an Agile, or adaptive, incorporates scope as a variable, not just cost and schedule. If you say, “Here’s how much time and money I’ve got,” the question that then needs to be asked is “How much work can we get done?” Jeff points out that in any project environment or class, when discussing this triple constraint, you only get to pick two of these variables. However, he emphasizes that it will not always be the same two variables, and that predictive projects also have some level of variability. Jeff highlights that some of the first questions that might need to be asked are, “What’s fixed?” and “What’s variable?”

There are several primary sources that describe and build the foundation for an Agile mindset that include values and principles seen across all projects and programs. The Agile Manifesto includes the four Values and twelve Principles. A very important point Jeff makes is that within these values and principles, the word “software” can be substituted with “product”, “training”, or whatever fits your need. He finds himself lucky that his boss introduced this to him on his first official assignment working with Agile on a Scrum team. In other words, these values and principles work with whatever you’re developing and aren’t exclusive to software. Jeff notes that Principle #10 “Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done is Essential” is his favorite!

The next source to look to are the five Scrum Values of the Scrum Alliance. The importance here is the focus on people. People define what’s valuable on the project. People make plans, commitments to those plans, they do the work, learn, and reflect. In addition, the SAFe House of Lean and the Ten SAFe Principles are also included. Jeff mentions that if you are not already familiar with these primary sources, he strongly recommends them as a starting point for the learning journey that asks, “What is the Agile mindset?”

There are values and principles consistent across these sources, but they are also universal across projects and programs. These Universal Values and Principles are as follows: People, Prioritization, Participation, Persistence, and Patience. There are plenty of examples to tie each of these back to the sources. For example, “People” relates to all five of the Scrum values, the first value of the Agile Manifesto Values, the 1st pillar in the SAFe House of Lean, and the eighth principle of the Ten SAFe Principles.

These Universal Values and Principles are universal across the project environment. In predictive environments, we are prioritizing work based on value and prioritizing based on value is important in any project or program. We can look to #11 of the Agile Manifesto Principles and #9 of the Ten SAFe Principles for “Participation”. “Persistence” is just as applicable, as overcoming obstacles is a widespread theme throughout these sources and obstacles are always being overcome. “Patience” is being honest and realistic with our expectations because Agile is not necessarily going to get faster.


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How to cite this article: Cable, J. (2021). Embracing the Agile Mindset in Any Project Environment; Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/pmwj115-Mar2022-Cable-embracing-the-agile-mindset.pdf

 About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he has been a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer two undergraduate minors, 3 master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/