Knock, Knock PMI... is Disciplined Agile still alive?

Ok, I reflected for a long long time before I decided to write this post.

I’m one of the first supporter of Disciplined Agile (Delivery), starting from 2012 when I used it for helping a group of developers in creating new e-gov services in Italy.

What I immediately loved about DAD was his “concreteness” and, in some way, the “engineering approach”: a tool (kit) able to supports professional people in their work, giving them explicit suggestions to address the most common challenges meetable in a complex environment in relations to complex projects.


If you look about the Agile scenario 15 years ago, you can directly understand the value of that, especially if you were searching for something more explicit than sentence like: “ok, do the planning, but it’s your business to find how”.

Well, all of this was reinforced by the two great DA co-authors: Scott (Ambler) and Mark (Lines), two smart guys with which I immediately created a connection and a friendship. These 2 guys were able to ensemble a passionate group (the DA Advisor Council) that discussed, with regular cadence, about concrete experiences and identified how improve DA to support better and better the companies in their Business Agility journey.

It was like a “handcrafted activity”, but very appreciated by the community and by the companies that had the opportunity to use DA.

Well, everything changed in August 2019, when the PMI acquired DA.

Initially, my reaction was: fantastic! 

My idea, and not just mine, was that the prestige (and the power) of PMI could open a new era for DA, looking to all the managers and executives of big company, normally linked to PMI, that are searching for a guided way to support the evolution of their organization, inspired by an Agile mindset.

Under the guide of Scott and Mark, the initial signals, to be honest, was totally positive: PMI started to create new resources, review the old one, created the DA Advisor Group, and worked a lot on the Disciplined Agile brand awareness and reputation. A lot of work was also spent in devolving a new certification path to support a structured learning journey for improve, and prove, the competence related to the toolkit. We must also not forget Al Shalloway: he was a fundamental element of this (r)evolution, bringing in PMI his experience and working for integrated the FLEX framework with DA with the goal to create the “dynamic soul” of the toolkit.

An impressive work, and not a simple integration to manage (between DA, Net Objectives and PMI) especially with an organization (PMI) that is still today in searching for a new identity in the agility era.

The initial hopes, however, soon gave way to reality, and despite the efforts and the initial enthusiasm, the ambitions began to be disregarded. PMI was unable to really understand the power of DA, focusing almost exclusively on the certifications, and don’t really consider DA like a product, but like a “manual”, similar to the classic PMBOK (without wishing to belittle the latter).

Sure, a lot of work was made in this direction: a new web site, reviewed materials, more integration with internal procedure, some new guys dedicated to support of Mark and Scott, but the strategy was wrong: it was soon clear that PMI was trying to “institutionalize” DA, without consider that in this way the ability of the toolkit to evolve rapidly would soon slow down, cutting also the ability to gain fundaments feedbacks and contributions form community.

The first result was the abandonment of Al Shalloway, and the chaos related to the Value Stream Consultant certification (and in part to the Value Stream layer) also because Al worked with a no real integration with Scott and Mark.

In this very unclear situation, another pain point was (and remains) the support to DA from the Chapters: a disaster! 

To be clear: this statement is not specifically related to the volunteers, fantastic passionate people that dedicate their time to promote a batter way to work and to manage projects, but I think that the Chapters didn’t receive the right support for identify a clear direction to follow about DA: too much confusion that created a so high resistance about DA, without having the courage to review the engagement strategy.

During these years I (but not only me, also a tenacious group of experts) spoke about DA in a lot of conferences around the world, translate the DA book in Italian, wrote a lot of posts, use the toolkit in different companies, hosted certification workshops, and more.

But the lack of a real support has generated a critical situation: the market adoption of DA remains less than 3%, and the perception is that "PMI ate DA" and have relegated it to one of its “recommendations” without really think that it can be the spearhead for the new PMI era.

Now we are in 2023. Scott and Mark left PMI in the past July, and PMI has decided to “freeze” (or cancel, given the facts and my opinion) the Advisor group, after naming a new DA leader. But, after 8 months, all is in a “cryogenic state”: no news, an old certification path, old materials, no info about future plans.

da frost

In my daily work like an Agile Business Coach/Advisors, it’s not so common to find a company that knows DA, and, worst, it’s very complex to explain them why invest on DA, primarily because there is a very poor support coming from PMI, in every aspect.

Please, don’t misunderstand me: those are my feedbacks about the actual status of DA, and it’s not a call to raise the white flag! 

I’m sure that PMI is still in time to change this situation and revamp DA, giving it the right shine. 

In my opinion, PMI must consider DA like a Product and create a real Product Management group, supported by a specific Value Stream to govern its evolution and to support the related adoption. It’s not simple, but PMI must apply to itself what it suggests to thousands of companies: otherwise, why someone must trust it?

Hoping that things can change soon, I will continue my professional journey with Disciplined Agile (mixing it with other frameworks, practices, approaches, etc.) because I’m sure that it’s a great toolkit for everyone involved in complex challenges, but a new vision for DA is needed, and PMI must develop and promote it soon.

Felice Pescatore

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