Project Management Institute

Tame the Haters

Don't Ignore Calls to Cast Project Management Aside; Push Back with Constructive Proposals

img

ISTOCKPHOTO

Don't ignore calls to cast project management aside. Push back with constructive counterproposals.

By Jesse Fewell, CST, PMI-ACP, PMP, contributing editor

“We want to be controversial for a moment and propose an end to projects and project management.”

So goes the opening chapter of #Noprojects: A Culture of Continuous Value, a book published this year by two agile acolytes. But the concept is nothing new. For years, I've heard speeches and read blog posts declaring project management irrelevant in today's fast-paced world of frequent deliverables. It's one thing to challenge the use of plan-driven approaches for dynamic projects; it's quite another to declare the death of project management as a concept.

I've generally dismissed these notions, but recent conversations with senior executives make clear this is a trend we in the project management community need to take seriously.

THE REAL RUB

At first glance, the idea that projects (and project management) are needless sounds ridiculous. We will always have bridges and products to build. In fact, much of what we call “agile” is a more humanized version of what project managers have been doing for a while. For example, a retrospective formalizes the kaizen mindset of continuous improvement. A release train dependency board is just a more collaborative version of the critical path method.

So if it's not about the techniques, what is it about? In reality, project management gets blamed for a lot of the side effects caused by organizational project traditions. Moreover, frustrated executives have told me things like, “Why do I have a project management office of project managers? We need to operate like startups do, with less money and faster results.”

Here's a change agenda that would address their common pain points without “ending” projects:

▪ Value Metrics: Use the innovation accounting technique to differentiate leading and lagging indicators, as startups do.

▪ Earned Funding: Replace annual funding cycles with regular funding review boards. Projects showing positive leading value indicators get more funding, while others get killed.

▪ Stable Staffing: Many organizations staff projects in ways that create skill dependencies and confuse capacity data. Why not simplify accountability with cross-departmental teams that own both the building and maintenance of a suite of related products?

The next time an executive tells you that projects are old-fashioned, surprise the person by saying you agree. Then propose incremental funding of product teams, with leaders held accountable for measured value, like startup CEOs. They'll likely be impressed—and you can nip a push for #noprojects in the bud. PM

img Jesse Fewell, CST, PMI-ACP, PMP, has served on the core team of the Agile Practice Guide and the Steering Committee for the PMI-ACP® certification. He can be reached at email@jessefewell.com.
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Related Content

  • PMI White Papers

    How Agile are Companies in Germany?

    By PMI Cologne Chapter Until recently, Agile was considered as a set of principles and practices relevant only to software development projects. However, Agile is now spreading to other parts and types of organisations,…

  • PM Network

    Agile Capacity

    By Parsi, Novid Wrong resources? Right resources at the wrong time? Both can cripple project momentum—and send shock waves across the project portfolio, even threatening the organization's bottom line. And the…

  • White-Paper-Cologne-thumbnail.jpg

    How Agile are Companies in Germany?

    By PMI Cologne Chapter Until recently, Agile was considered as a set of principles and practices relevant only to software development projects. However, Agile is now spreading to other parts and types of organisations,…

  • Design Thinking to Improve Your Agile Process

    By Vukosav, Denis Agile project teams interact with users and deliver incrementally. This paper is an introduction to how design thinking, combined with agile, will further reduce the risk of failing.

  • PM Network

    Practical Guidance

    By Fewell, Jesse The debate about processes—when to follow them versus when to bend them in favor of deeper principles—has been an age-old, fundamental tension in project management. Those of us contributing to A…

Advertisement