Today we hear agile, lean and scrum applied to all projects. Senior managers often use the terms agile and lean without understanding what that means. The old school project managers feel waterfall is always the solution. Moving forward it is likely that other project approaches will emerge. Everyone wants delivery of success in as short a time as possible with reduced risks and costs. How can the best balance be achieved?
Waterfall Approach gives better definition?
The waterfall approach is rigid and gives a clear path. The definition of what you want, document and agree what that means in detail. Building the project deliverables based on design, the test to ensure the end product meets that design. Then handing the final product over to the customer, is a well establish method of delivery. Waterfall as an approach has drawbacks in terms of timescale and flexibility to change the design in flight. Waterfall is full of fixed, rigid and repeatable patterns. Purists do expect all the steps to be completed, and this can lead to bureaucratic governance..
Agile gives improved delivery time
The agile approach can improve timescale and flexibility to change during the project. If managed well it will deliver a result quicker, it is likely that the result will be a modified version of the original aim. Agile is not easy to manage in large project teams. Agile also has challenges for teams split over varied locations.
Increasingly Agile projects have their own red tape and a requirement to produce documents that support the approach. Projects can be focused on producing the user stories that describe a solution rather than the solution itself.
Using a Jeet Kune Do Approach
If you look at the range of project management methods, there is a parallel with the martial arts systems around the world. They all have a fixed core of steps and approaches and an expectation that the exponent can demonstrate knowledge of techniques. The competent practitioner should then be able to demonstrate appropriate use of the techniques for any given situation.
When Bruce Lee developed Jeet Kune Do he was faced with a similar problem to that of formal project methodologies. The traditional martial arts and formal set approaches reinforced with rigid but repeatable patterns that are learned and then mastered as a student progresses. Bruce Lee suggested that these rigid approaches were not the best approach when face with a fluid fighting situation. A more adaptable approach should be adopted, just as in Bruce Lee’s quote below:
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
Using no way as way, sounds like a silly approach at first glance. But maybe using all ways selectively and not being constraint by any particular way has appeal. So could Project Managers have better results with a flexible and adaptable approach?
Empowering your Project Managers
So taking the Jeet Kune Do approach to project management; the project manager is tasked with delivering the customer’s goal and using the most appropriate method at each stage of the project. Selecting the right approach to the situation and stage of project to minimise risk and cost but improve time to market.
Project Managers empowered to flex as projects demand, not be constrained by the method. They will still need to control cost and lead the team while fulfilling the customer need. But if they use the tools and techniques that flex to their experience and the demands of the situation then the outcome is likely to be better.
To successfully implement this approach, you need experienced project managers.