I recently attended a PMI Chapter meeting and chatted up as many PMO leaders as I could about adopting agile methods. I was surprised to hear from more than one of these leaders that "agile just doesn't work for us". Here are some of the comments that they made about their agile experience:
We tried it on one project and it failed miserably. Now our CTO says we are not allowed to use the word agile to describe what we are doing.
We had a bad experience and we believe that agile is just not a fit for us.
Huh? I found this a little surprising since Gartner predicts that 80% of all software projects will be moving to Agile methods within the next few years. It seemed to me that the PMO leaders are either 1) part of the 20%, 2) not in a software or IT related industry or 3) a little out of touch.
Of course, upon hearing their initial comments I quickly shifted into Columbo mode and had "just one more question" for them. It turns out, in both cases, the agile adoption was driven organically from the bottom up. Both projects didn't have a defined end, they just kept lingering on. And in both cases, they lacked a dedicated product owner. Actually, in the first case they had a product owner but the business went around the product owners and communicated directly with the developers about what they needed. Yikes!
When I asked about what the second project was doing that was agile, it seemed that what they were doing was whatever people wanted or perhaps were always doing, and then calling it agile.
I think the lesson for me is that PMOs have many concerns and agile adoption is not high on their list of priorities (yet). They haven't taken the time to learn about agile and support their fledgling agile efforts. I also think that another factor is that change is difficult, and PMOs simply aren't the most 'change friendly' organizations.
One thing that is certain - the PMO and agile enthusiasts are on a collision course. Traditional PMOs are going to need to understand and in most cases embrace agile methods in order to demonstrate business value to their organizations, and to help their organizations be more competitive.