The evolution of agile frameworks


Sensemaking in the Agile Forest


By Henny Portman

The Netherlands


My estimate is that there are more than 100 agile project, program, and portfolio management approaches. I have closely followed the development of agile frameworks in recent years, building my ‘Bird’s eye view on the agile forest’ (see figure)[1] and recognizing an evolution of frameworks within it:

  • Pilot phase: supporting one team
  • Engineering phase: focus on skills within a team
  • Scaling up to multiple teams: each team autonomous, permanently collaborating teams on one product or service, temporary structure with permanent or non-permanent teams
  • Scaling up to organization: portfolio management
  • Repair phase: focus on the agile mindset, the agile culture

Pilot phase: supporting one team

This phase already started at the end of the 20th century. The Agile Manifesto[2], agreed by 17 people in Utah (2001), brought structure and is the starting point for most of the agile approaches.

Some key characteristics for agile ways of working supporting one team are:

  • Permanent or temporary. Is the team set up for a temporary period (as part of a project) or is it a permanent team using agile ways of working? In the last situation you could say “we bring the work to the team” and the product owner could put it on the backlog.
  • The size of the team. If the team gets too big, cooperation between team members is made difficult by the number of possible lines of communication. A team size of 5 to 9 members is considered optimal.
  • Team members. Team members must be among other things motivated to deliver, must be able to handle ambiguity and must have a high degree of agreeability.
  • Team autonomy. How autonomous can the team be. What agreements are made regarding decision making. When can they make decisions on their own, when do the need to escalate?


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Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series by Henny Portman, one of the world’s leading authorities on “agile”. Based in The Netherlands, Henny coined the term “agile forest” in 2019 to describe the many agile frameworks that have emerged over the last 20 years.  This series was intended to help readers better understand the agile concept, navigate through the ‘underbrush’ and more successfully apply whichever framework is selected for their projects. See a list of series articles at the end of this article.

How to cite this article: How to cite this article: Portman, H. (2023).  The evolution of agile frameworks, Sensemaking in the Agile Forest series, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj130-Jun2023-Portman-18-The-evolution-of-agile-frameworks.pdf

About the Author

Henny Portman

The Netherlands


 Henny Portman, owner of Portman PM[O] Consultancy and was partner of HWP Consulting, has 40 years of experience in the project management domain. He was the project management office (PMO) thought leader within NN Group and responsible for the introduction and application of the PMO methodologies (portfolio, program, and project management) across Europe and Asia. He trains, coaches, and directs (senior) programme, project and portfolio managers and project sponsors at all levels, and has built several professional (PM(O)) communities.

Henny Portman is accredited in a variety of qualifications, including P3O, PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgileSHIFT trainer and an SPC4 SAFe consultant and trainer. He is a P3M3 trainer and assessor and PMO Value Ring Certified Consultant (PMO Global Alliance). On behalf of IPMA, he assesses mega and large projects for the IPMA Project Excellence Award. In addition to this, he is an international speaker, author of many articles and books in the PM(O) field, and an active blogger. More at hennyportman.wordpress.com

Henny can be contacted at henny.portman@gmail.com

To view other works by Henny Portman, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/henny-portman/

[1] Portman, H. (2020). A new bird’s eye view on the agile forest; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue X, October. https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/pmwj98-Oct2020-Portman-a-new-birds-eye-view-on-agile-forest.pdf
[2] See for an explanation of the Agile manifesto and underlaying principles: Portman, H. (2022).  What is Agile? Sensemaking in the Agile Forest series, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue I, January. https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/pmwj113-Jan2022-Portman-what-is-agile-sensemaking-in-the-agile-forest-series-article1.pdf