Planning is Dead

Imagine you have to lead a project that has big organizational impact.

Requirements and dependencies are so complex that you can never fully understand them. Everything is moving. And you have no dedicated people to do the work.

Impossible? You are fired.

No, this is no worst-case scenario from a book on project management. This is reality today. At least in terms of project characteristics (you may not be fired straight away).

Let’s take an internal business application roll out project at a multinational corporation. It will standardize and improve the business and will cut costs. You are the superstar to achieve all that with almost no resources, but a few scattered people working uncertain amount of time on your project.

Traditional paradigm says: plan, execute, monitor and control. Sorry, you don’t have the time to do that properly, you don’t have all the information, the team, and the formal power. Everything you know is on high-level, virtual, dependencies are complex and facts are changing on daily basis.

Agile paradigm stakes on collaboration of self-organized cross functional teams and requirements and solutions that evolve iteratively. If I was not clear that there is no real team, see again above. If you go iteratively, step by step, in such a global environment you can get lost, chase your tale and end up in bigger chaos than that in the beginning.

So, neither traditional nor agile project management in their pure form would work in this scenario. What is the solution then?

It is roughly based on three principles: understanding of major business goals, flexibility, and gut feeling.

Business goals are the driver that brought into existence your project. If you don’t lose a goal from sight you will find a way to get there.

The need for flexibility is self-explanatory. When you don’t have hard rules you need to be able to navigate, work with people, make trade-offs or change the course.

Gut feeling comes from experience. You hopefully have good track record in project management and in similar projects. Your experience and intuition will guide you much better than scientific models or pure faith in human capabilities.

All this does not sound workable and predictable? Some would say that this approach will not allow us to control the classic project management triangle of scope, time and cost. They will be right.

The thing is, it is not strict control that matters most in the described type of project but delivering value for the business. Just find out what this means for your project. Believe me, I have done that many times and it works.

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