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Project Practitioners > Brian Irwin

Brian Irwin, PMI-ACP, PMP, CSP, CSM

Brian Irwin

Brian Irwin has worked across a diverse set of industries including IT, software, aerospace, computer hardware, defense, and research. He has gently coached and guided numerous individuals, teams, and organizations through uncertainty as they adopt agile and strive to continuously improve. He is the author of Managing Politics and Conflict in Projects and is working on his second book, targeted at helping project managers understand agile and make the personal transformation when their organizations initiate large-scale agile adoptions. Brian has served as a volunteer on numerous PMI standards, including the second edition of The Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3), and both the second and third editions of The Standard for Portfolio Management. He is a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), Project Management Professional (PMP), and Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). Brian has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master of Science in Project Management and is a product consultant and agile coach for VersionOne.

Contact Info:
Twitter: @Brian_Irwin (Brian_Irwin)

Scrum is not Difficult; Abandoning the Familiar Is
By Brian Irwin
Scrum is one of the easiest frameworks to understand. I’ve heard it said that, while Scrum is easily understood, it’s difficult to do. While teams and organizations do struggle with Scrum, I tend to disagree with the wholesale statement that Scrum is difficult to do. One of the reasons I believe this statement came about is that teams and organizations aren’t realizing the benefits they originally expected they’d receive when first adopting Scrum. The Scrum framework is intentionally lightweight and easily understood. Struggling to implement something that’s easily understood is indicative of different issues. Before I get too deep into... Read More»

Agility Does Not Exist in the Absence of Organizational Learning
By Brian Irwin
I've become increasingly convinced that a lack of learning is one of the largest inhibitors of agile transformation results. One can argue that we are at, or nearing, the end of the knowledge era. Knowledge is ubiquitous. Simple possession of knowledge is not sufficient for either the individual or the organization. Today's rapidly changing business climate requires the coalescing of knowledge and experience into rapid learning that can be applied to problems and opportunities we can leverage for business value–quickly. The amplification of learning is a key principle in lean and agile methods. However, this is where traditional organizations making... Read More»

An Open Letter to Executives Leading Agile Transformations
By Brian Irwin
Dear Executive, Let me congratulate you on your decision to introduce agile methods within your organization. It is a wise decision that holds incredible potential for your employees, your company, and its customers. If you are just beginning your improvement, or are yet to begin, the journey upon which you are about to embark is one that will be well worth the effort. And it will take effort—long, arduous, and at times frustrating effort. Although Machiavellians do exist, my experience is that they are exceedingly rare. In general, people are good, honest, and hard-working and really want to do the... Read More»

Retrospectives and Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
By Brian Irwin
The tension is palpable and suffocating, as if a pillow is being held over my face in anticipation of drawing my last breath. The last team member enters the room and it’s time to begin. “Welcome to the sprint retrospective,” I say with conviction. Perhaps I’m trying to convince myself that I’m emotionally ready. Or, maybe I’m trying to be an insulator to the electricity of anticipation coursing through the team room. Welcome to the retrospective. For me, and many other coaches or ScrumMasters, the sprint review is the most difficult undertakings. Yet, in my view, it is one of... Read More»

Story Maps - Your Path to Product Success
By Brian Irwin
Personally, I tend to grasp things better visually. Tell me the directions to your house and, while I'll get there, it will probably take me longer and cause me more frustration than if you had also provided a map. It can also be helpful to create a map of functionality when developing products. In their simplest form, products are bundles of functionality that end users utilize for benefit. Early in the agile product development life cycle it can be very difficult to develop an initial prioritized product backlog of user stories. The story map is one tool we can use... Read More»

Scrum is Not the Goal
By Brian Irwin
Every day I witness teams doing Scrum, each operating at varying levels of maturity. Scrum is a great way of working because, as a lightweight framework, it dictates nothing about how the actual work inside of a sprint is done. It does provide a number of roles, ceremonies, and artifacts, but stops short of instructing a team how to do its work. How the works actually gets done is determined by a number of factors such as how the team self-organizes, interacts, and how the individual members relate to one another. Sometimes a weakness is simply a strength overdone. I... Read More»

Agile Project Management, Yes! Agile Project Manager, No!
By Brian Irwin
There are two primary camps in the agile community concerning the role of project managers. One camp, the agile purist, contends there is no project manager in agile; while the other, whom we’ll refer to for purposes of this discussion as the traditionalist, argues that there is absolutely a place in agile for the project manager. My colleague and fellow blogger Kent McDonald explored the topic in two blog posts (1, 2) and I also contributed an earlier post on the topic. First, to ensure we’re all on the same page I will give an overview of the argument from... Read More»

Time Management Mythology
By Brian Irwin
I recently heard a story told that recounted the experience of a teacher who was demonstrating the concept of volume. The teacher filled a glass jar with rocks and asked her class if it was full. The class responded enthusiastically and with certainty—yes! She then took sand and poured it into the jar and it filled the space between the rocks. She then asked, “How about now, is the container full?” Once again, with a little less certainty this time, the class responded, yes! She then poured water into the jar which filled the space between the sand, thereby occupying... Read More»

What's Your Role - Umbrella or Funnel?
By Brian Irwin
Hi, my name is Brian and I deliver no value! There, I said it. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Read that first sentence again and replace it with your own name. Now, go back and read it again. Take it in, contemplate it, and ponder it deeply. Read it carefully and think very hard about what you do each and every day as a project manager. Note that I did not say that I wasn't valuable or that I provide no value. I purposely stated that I deliver no value. Most project managers I know do not... Read More»

The Project Manager and Agile
By Brian Irwin
As more organizations transition from traditional waterfall to agile methodologies, confusion often abounds around the role of project manager. What happens to the project manager and the project management role during an agile transformation? Like most questions in life, the correct answer is—it depends, and is very contextual. Initially, there may be very little, if any, change in the project manager role. Project managers will largely find themselves doing a lot of the same work they always have. However, this is a very low maturity level indicator. If the expectations of traditional project management aren’t updated and managed to align... Read More»

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