Managing an Agile Project vs. Managing a Traditional Project

What are the biggest differences between managing a traditional project and managing an agile project? Is it management of change, how people are managed, or something else?
Project management practitioners commenting on this question in the PMI Career Central LinkedIn Group had numerous answers.
“In my opinion, the main difference between the two is how you approach the project,” said Israr Shaikh, PMI-RMP, PMP, of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who has managed projects for 13 years. With agile, one has to be more open and acceptable to challenges of changes, whereas with traditional project management, though changes are acceptable, they are first tested under the scanner of ‘scope creep.’”
In traditional project management, the project manager "manages" the projects (he or she is overall and ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project), noted Shailesh Sahasrabuddhe, MS, CSM, PMP, of Silicon Valley, California, USA, who has 10 years of experience in program and project management. But, “In agile, either no one or everyone ‘manages.’ There is no single person in charge or responsible, it’s a collective (product owner, Scrum Master, team) ownership.
“Both approaches/methodologies have their own pros and cons, challenges and sweet spots,” continued Mr. Sahasrabuddhe. “‘Horses for the courses’ is the way to go!”
Limited to the Delivery Aspect
Kaushik Das, CSM, PMP, of Bangalore, India, who has been leading software projects for more than six years, had a different perspective. “The project is a larger entity. Deliverables form a smaller part of it,” he said. “Agile techniques like Scrum are limited to the delivery aspect. The project still has to manage its cost, its overall scope, its resources, its people, its communications, any vendors involved, its risks, any issues.
“The project manager really has a lot of work to do. That’s why, if you’re agile, [allow] the team, the Scrum Master and the product owner to do its delivery-related management.”
Differing Time Perspectives
Muhammad Bilal, PMP, of Karachi, Pakistan, who has been managing software development projects for four years, said that in traditional waterfall methodology you have a bigger time spectrum, so the time to manage changes and mitigate risks is comparatively more than that of an agile project, where there is a limited timebox for sprints, and the team needs to respond back quickly.
“On the other hand, agile allows you to do things, evaluate them and move on,” he said. “[Traditional] has got bigger risk in terms of end product. There is more risk involved, because any change in later stages will directly impact product, not at that point but at the end of that development cycle.”
Team Psychology
“What about from a team psychology aspect?” asked Patrick Riley, MSEE, PMP, of Chicago, Illinois, USA, a product and project manager in telecom and IT for more than 15 years. “I have always found teams using waterfall to be less accepting of scope change, but also less willing to miss their delivery dates — whereas agile teams seem the opposite.”
Terry A. Dexter, of Hillsboro, Texas, USA, who has been managing projects in information sciences and IT for 12 years, said “Whether waterfall…or agile, the best method is to ‘trust but verify.’ Everyone associated with the project must know his or her job, role and contribution to the project.”
There are many potential aspects of difference between the two methodologies: When it is used, how it is used and how it affects the way project teams work. Glenn Williamson, MBA, PMP, of Chandler, Arizona, USA, a 10-year project management veteran in the semiconductor industry, said “From my standpoint as well as others, the biggest difference is in adapting to change, and the execution of the program plan.”
If there is one somewhat common view, it is that both approaches have their pros and cons. What do you think the differences are between managing a traditional project and managing an agile project? Join the ongoing discussion with the PMI Career Central Group on LinkedIn.