To avoid going astray in the univers of the possible solutions, we have invented the project management.
In fact, there is nothing more complicated than launching a project being certain aiming at the correct target, and this whatever the project is : data processing project, organizational project, humanitarian project, society project….
To be efficient we need to proceed with method and exactness and at first define where we want to go to and what objectives we expect to achieve. Classical project management has been invented to address precisely the need for rational and predictive approach.
To make it short, it is strongly recommended to define first the needs and the specifications of the final product or of the futur situation we want to get : the famous to-be situation.
Once this decisive step is completed and documented, we can move on with a quiet mind and start studying all the required resources needed to fulfill the solution, the related costs, and the plan of the next steps.
We face then the usual constraints triptych well known by all the project managers: meet the needs, manage the costs, and respect the deadlines, and at the end of the day achieve the essential objective, often left behind : the final customer satisfaction.
All that is perfect and satisfying for the spirit. Because we jump from a complex word, difficult to identify, into a rational conceptual model that is supposed to strongly mitigate risks of wandering, lost of time and money.
However, if this approach reassures a little bit the one in charge to develop the solution, a doubt glides permanently over the relevance of the initial needs documentation upon which all the design of the solution is based.
On the other hand, the one who expressed the initial needs, always leaves under stress during the project because he has been told, from the very beginning, that the needs are almost set in stone and that any change will require plan revision and additional costs with a project impact as much significant as the change comes late.
If you think about it, I am sure you would agree that it is extremely difficult to think about all the details at the very beginning of a complex project. Difficult as well to imagine how the solution will be in its futur environment that could be even modified by the solution itself.
If he was not conscious at first, the one who defined the specifications, will measure very fast the responsibility he has taken as the solution will take shape.
At the doubt that will stress him all the project long, will be added the sense of guilty if unfortunately a lack of specification creates a project issue.
As a consequence, and if a need of change occurs, the risk is to be more or less forced to accepte the already developed solution as it is, even if it does not correspond completely to the real needs, only to avoid endless discussions and project changes. By that we sacrifice the global customer satisfaction to the dynamics of the project.
Of course it is always a bad decision. The end users are not fooled. They will quickly realize the lack of solution whatever the cause of lack is : design error or development error, or both. The objectors in the change will so find many arguments to criticize the solution and even slow down its implementation.
In their big wisdom, the experts in project management do recommend to put in place a change management process. But as a matter of fact, the big changes are very often postponed to a future version of the development, which is more or less like launching a new project that will again require new funding and new schedule. The net is that the first delivery does not match with the real needs.
I would not draw a too dark picture of the traditional project management, it is definitely a very efficiente approach for complex projects which need strong design steps and that could be developed in a relatively stable environment. I am thinking for instance of building construction : how could we imagine to finalize foundations if we do not know exactly the number of floors and the surfaces that they will supported ?
But in many other cases, willing defining and documenting all and everything from the beginning; is a matter of utopia.
In front of the constraints of the traditional project management, we look at the agility concept.
With the agility concept, we move completely out of the existing paradigms. Beforehand we take as granted that our environment is in perpetual transformation and that the flexibility key resides on the interaction with people who know about what they speak.
Costs and plans management become the consequences and not the constraints of our own decisions.
Thus we would prefer listening, cooperation between the various actors, and customer satisfaction to contractual commitment and to needs formalization. Instead of managing changes, we focus on risks management to react to the unforeseen and anticipate the uncertainties. Change is accepted as an integral part of the project management.
According to the same spirit, we will not try and solve everything at one time but we will move on by iterations for instance by setting up a prototype, even parts of the final solutions which we know imperfect but that we can easily and quickly modify.
By that we slightly move from a project management in waterfall – need / design / development – to in a new model with successive loops of improvements.
The agility concept releases itself from the administrative heaviness of the traditional project management and allows a more efficient, more fluid and user-friendly approach in environments that are in constant transformation.
Initially designed for purely IT development project at the end of the last century, nowadays the concept of agility naturally found applications in vaster domains : organization project, new management initiatives, innovant enterprise project …
It is doubtless the most innovative concept of these last years. Beyond the concept itself it is certainly the emergence of a new way of thinking how the enterprise could be managed more in phase with its environment.
I do invite you to read more about this concept.