Staying current in an ever changing field

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With the current vibe and growing popularity surrounding Kanban (a new Agile methodology), I’ve been getting questions from people about project management as a career field. Specifically, they are seeking a definition for what project management is in context of these new methodologies, like Kanban and Scrum, that keep appearing on the PM scene.

If you use Agile methods, do you have to move to Kanban? What about Scrum? Does a PM have to stay certified in every new method?

The main thing to keep in mind when trying to objectify PM as a field is that project management is just like any other professional field out there. As the field grows, as new people become PMs, and as we learn more about what works—and what doesn’t—the professional field as a whole will come with its’ updates, and natural flow of progress and change. Much like medical doctors have to stay on top of the major changes in medical advice and even the invention of new medications and FDA laws, etc, so project management will come with its’ updates, changes, and inventions of new methodologies. The core knowledge right now is traditional project management and the PMP. Everything else is like a specialization.

So what does this mean in context of furthering your career? Well, as a professional PM, you will need to stay on top of your game. But it does not mean you have to jump on the bandwagon of every new kid on the block. PMs should be committed to continuing to invest in their education, but not for every new method. Be familiar with the current pulse of PM, but save your serious investments of time and money for the ones that will add business value. Much like a medical doctor might choose to prescribe an “old faithful” medication for a particular illness, you are going to expect that he made that choice AFTER evaluating the new medication on the market. So PMs should consider it simply professional to stay on top of, aware, and educated in, the most current strategies out there. What makes sense on your particular project, however, will likely be a case-by-case evaluation.