“Don’t manage the unknown and unpredictable the same way you manage the known and predictable.”
– Doug DeCarlo, Oct 2004 – eXtreme Project Management

“Managers must be flexible enough to adopt the right approaches at the right time…to find the balance between planning and learning.”
– Arnoud De Meyer, Christopher H. Loch, and Michael T. Pich – Managing Project Uncertainty: From Variation to Chaos

Reflecting on the last ten years of my own experience working on projects, early on, I saw mostly “traditional project management.” That is, project management that places greater emphasis on planning upfront, and as a whole, a greater proportion of the total project planning is done very early in the project, and seeks to provide predictability of activities over longer planning horizons. Other terms I’ve heard for this project management style are “predictive” or “sequential (gateway) delivery.” In more recent years, however, my experience has been to see “iterative and incremental” approaches. Again, that is, project management that places less emphasis on planning upfront, and as a whole, a greater proportion of the total project planning is done in small amounts iteratively across the project, and seeks to provide predictability of activities only over shorter planning horizons. Other terms I’ve heard for this project management style are “emergent” and “incremental delivery.”

While this is a minimal level of distinction, for our purposes it will be sufficient. This won’t be a post on “good vs. evil” styles of project management. In fact, I’m advising, that might be a “limiting” perspective. Rather, the “focus” is to view projects from a perspective of uncertainty (as a model) to gain insights into these two project management styles that may help us more effectively manage our projects.

 Are All Projects the Same?

In your experience, how often have you seen projects managed differently from one another? Is there “evidence” to suggest, based on how you manage or see projects managed, that all projects are the same? (continue reading…)