Politics, Religion and Project Methodologies: 3 Ways to Have an Argument

Methodologies Compared

Everyone has their favorite project management methodology. Some people are so impressed by their methodology that they are offended when another methodology is discussed. It’s a lot like discussing politics or religion.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

All project management methodologies are supposed to lead to the same outcome: the right product or service, at the right price, in the right time frame.

There are many project management methodologies. Some are very popular. Many are not. They all fall into a flavor of one of these methodologies:

Behind Door #1: Sequential, Top-Down, Waterfall Project Management

It reminds me of the Book of Genesis, describing how God created the heaven and the earth in six days, one step at a time. That’s sequential. That’s top-down. That’s waterfall.

When you build a step-by-step plan, and you follow those steps, you are practicing top-down, waterfall project management.

The original top-down projects left no room for surprises. Life is full of surprises. Project managers began looking for ways to manage those surprises.

Behind Door #2: Agile

Here’s the secret about Agile Project Management. its primary purpose is to manage the unknowns of a traditional project. Agile means that you’ll jump out of a traditional sequence to manage an error before it derails your project.

Agile uses Progressive Elaboration to help manage unknowns. Think of driving your car down the road into a fog bank. As you first enter the fog bank, you know very little about the road conditions at the far end of the fog bank. Your decision-making is hampered by the fog. As you drive further into the fog bank, you can begin to see the end of the road more clearly. By the time you reach the end, you can see everything clearly.

Contrary to popular myths, there can be no 100% Agile project. Agile attempts to manage the unknowns in your project. That can only happen if your project began from a Project Charter that described the Deliverable, its Due Date and its Accountable Person: you as the project manager. The Charter is a top-down project management tool.

Beware of the Agile practitioner who says, “I’ll deliver what I want, when I want, for whatever it costs.” That’s not Agile project management; that’s chaos.

Agile processes start out by following a sequence of steps towards a checkpoint, a milestone. If the planned conditions are met, the Agile project acts like a top-down project as it continues sequentially to the next checkpoint. Doesn’t that sound like top-down to you?

If something is incorrect at any checkpoint, Agile jumps backwards to fix the problem and work its way back up to that milestone. It’s “two steps forward, and one step back.” If everything is OK the second time around, then the Agile project continues sequentially to the next checkpoint.

Agile is a good tool to manage unknowns, but

Behind Door #3: Scrum

Like Agile, Scrum has a single focus: how to resolve newly-discovered problems, so the project can stay on track.

Scrum is a rugby term. It is a method of re-starting play where members of both teams huddle with their heads down, and try to push towards their respective goals.

A scrum meeting is a brief, stand-up meeting that occurs each morning. One at a time, each team member reports on three topics:

  1. What they did yesterday

  2. What they plan to accomplish today

  3. What roadblocks are in their way

The scrum master focuses only on the third point: overcoming roadblocks so all team members can continue at full speed.

Scrum isn’t a complete project management methodology. It is an effective roadblock-remover that can be a tool in Traditional or Agile projects.

When You Combine the Best of Each, You Get Door #4: Hybrid Project Management

When you take the best tools from each project management methodology, your combination is called Hybrid Project Management. Hybrid is the new kid on the block. It’s the best, because it combines the best features from each project management methodologies.

There’s something for everyone with hybrid project management. As far as the proponents of each methodology are concerned, nobody gets everything, but everybody gets something. More importantly, the customer gets what they want, on time, within budget. Isn’t that what we all desire?