Discussions about Project Management

 I have seen 3 post and had 2 discussion this week (it is only Tuesday!) that suggested we should be more consistent about project management and not confuse people.  Agile method followers insist waterfall is dead and should be buried. Others say Agile is about product development and not project management and should get out!  There is a drive for consistency and conformance: “all businesses need to be run by project management”, “we need one method”

These are frustrating conversations and damaging to business and the project management profession.  They are also naïve.

There is a place for consistence and conformity because it does increase efficiency by driving out variation, easing communication and increasing focus on the requirements. Continuous improvement for consistency and conformance can drive out waste in a process. Project management is not right as the main management technique for a process-driven business where most tasks are very well-defined and repeatable: there, efficiency is the priority.

However, all those wonderful ways of reducing waste also reduce diversity and creativity.  Diversity and creativity are what drive new developments and, hopefully, progress.  Yes, projects are a good way to organize the work of some businesses. Project management focuses on effective delivery of discrete impacts and deliverables.  A project is a “unique undertaking” with a unique place(s), specification, resources, timescale, team and stakeholders. Repeatability is probably not needed for a part of what the project does.

Governance and reporting should be consistent within an organisation to get efficient resource use but project management is more than methods: it is about communication and getting things done.

There are also good reasons why people talk about projects differently:
1.. “project management” includes project portfolio, project and programme management which are significantly different management situations
2. Project management has a number of techniques/methods applicable to different sorts of projects/programmes/portfolios
3. everybody has their own experience of project management – every project is unique – and we learn from each other’s experience

Don’t get trapped in ineffective uniformity for efficiency’s sake.  Talk about effectiveness and business needs. Consider the context and the people involved. Weigh the balance of a unique approach to resolve the project needs against the benefits of consistency.

Beware if all your projects are the same: start to question if you really have projects and if there are more effective and efficient ways to manage the work.

Finally and importantly, share the lessons learned about managing projects in your context.


About 3triangles
Helping organisations make change happen in 3 key areas: strategic change, deliver tactical impacts, efficient and effective processes. All blog content (c) 2009 - 2012 Carol Long and Three Triangles Performance Ltd

One Response to Discussions about Project Management

  1. Pam Stanton says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. My work is based on the concept that people drive projects, not methodology. Every project, as every individual, is in fact unique. Great article!

    Pam Stanton

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