IPMA International Project Management Association
3 October 2018 / 9:40

IPMA Agile Leader Expedition – Mindset over Method

Actually, of course, it should be mindset over framework, but that doesn’t alliterates so well. Some time ago I wrote about the Agile Leader Certification for which IPMA has chosen. I would like to bring you up to date with our progress and the uniqueness of this new product that we are developing within IPMA. Let me start with the latter. In all our products we focus on competent people or organisations. We are also non-profit, method/framework independent, and we are looking for a generic competence description that can be applied to any industry. This has always been IPMA’s unique selling point.

In the agile certification we even go one step further by also describing the Agile Mindset and how this translates into everyday behaviour. Mindset over method (or framework)! Mindset is all about mentality! Because we have described this in the Reference Guide ICB4 for an Agile World for 28 competence elements, you get a good insight into what Agile with a capital A really means. The uniqueness of the guide is that it will become, in the next increment, one of the most comprehensive descriptions of the agile mindset currently available.

I am well aware that this guide is a starting point rather than an end point. That’s why we started the second part of our Agile Expedition. The foundation has been laid. The Agile mindset is described globally in 28 competency elements and each element has key indicators of agile behaviour. During the next part of the journey we describe in more detail the measures by which we can observe this. Often you hear agilists say that someone doesn’t have the agile mindset. The meaning often remains rather vague. But when we compare our agile measures with the ICB for project management, we see exactly the difference. Let me give an example.

For the competence element that is about Self-reflection and Self-management the mindset description starts with this sentence:

Personality evolves during the interaction between people. Someone gets to know oneself in relation to others. By reflecting, we learn the impact of our behaviour on others. The tension that sometimes emerges can motivate us to adapt, that is the value of self-management.

One of the competence indicators for this element is: Build self-confidence on the basis of personal strengths and weaknesses. Note that this one is the same for Agile as it is for project management. The major difference is in the measures, let me reveal what is becoming a part of the next increment:

ICB 4 Project Management Reference Guide ICB 4 in an Agile world
Identifies own strengths, talents, limits and weaknesses. Identifies the value of his own strengths and talents to the team.


Do you see the big difference? The agile mindset is about the value you have for someone else. Of course that also plays a role in the classic situation, but in an agile world we put much stronger emphasis on your contribution to the team. This is just one example of Agile behaviour the way IPMA sees it.

Let me inform you of the status. I am expanding the existing team with experts from different countries (Canada; Croatia; Finland; Germany; Netherlands; Portugal; Sweden; Switzerland; UK; US). When your Member Association is not on the list and should be on it, please contact me. We also have an online environment where we start working on the measures. We start with the existing measures and change them where needed to agile behaviour. This is an intensive process that requires a lot of preparation from the members of the team.

In November we have a workshop where we will discuss this and prepare the measures for the next extension of the reference guide. After that we will make all text consistent, ready to be used for the worldwide implementation of this certification. This is not all that we deliver during this increment, but that is something I will tell you about in an next article.



  • Rob Evers says:

    I absolutely agree to the concept of being of value to the others in the team. And this one: ”Personality evolves during the interaction between people. Someone gets to know oneself in relation to others.” In my opinion this is even more about insight in social- and human factors and transactions (=communications and behavior) rather than ”technical” values or experience. When this would be true, how do we influence or improve those transactions/interactions between team members?

    would like to add, that it would be very helpful that team members gain knowledge

    • I think it should be true. Being Agile is al about interacting with colleagues and customers. So next to excellent technical skills we should focus on the People Competence Elements too, there are 10 of them in the ICB. Gaining knowledge, yes of course. For me knowledges is the experience of others applied to my own life.

  • Brendon de Reuck says:

    Brilliant piece John… not many people are aware of the differences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

John Hermarij

Author of this post

John Hermarij is a visionary on leadership and is a well-known speaker around the world. He inspired project managers from Belgium; Egypt; France; Greece; Hungary; Italy; Lithuania; Netherlands; Nigeria; Oman; Switzerland; Turkey; Syria; United Kingdom; and the United States.

He is the author of “Better Practices of Project Management” one of the world’s most comprehensive handbooks about IPMA’s competences on project management. He is also trainer in project management and adaptive leadership.