Methods allow us to implement processes in a rational way. User guides are highly useful for beginners who wish to implement all processes by following instructions especially when one does not have the full picture about a tool. Conversely, once you master your tool, it is essential that you own these tools and make them yours.
“Reason is the only thing that makes us human.”
René Descartes, Discourse on Method
When it comes to Lean, RUP, PMI, PMP, or Prince, the advantage of using certain methods, aside from the possible related criticism, is that you can set standards and ask everybody to follow them. However, I have come across a lot of hardliners obsessed with methodologies that used a lot of resources to apply processes which proved useless in the end, but they still carried on: after all, they were simply following instructions.
Common sense is the most important tool that you can use throughout your career. Whenever you feel that your approach or method turns into an objective and does not serve its purpose, it is probably high time you changed it. In other words, if your method hampers your performance, you must challenge it to suit your needs!
Aside from managing various projects, the Project Manager measures 90 KPIs; he spends hours on it and shows pride in doing so. So, what is the ultimate goal? The aim of a KPI is to measure, to assess aspects of your company and finally, to suggest measures in order to adjust and improve its operation. But who can follow up on 90 KPIs and adapt 90 processes at the same time? I think it’s a waste of time.
Another way to approach a situation, which is not managed efficiently, is to remember the reason behind it. Why do you use those indicators and who benefits from it? What’s their worth? Who reads those performance indicators? From my own personal experience, I am always amazed by the number of times in which this type of work, which has its own worth, is left unused. What do you really need?
I oversaw quite a few development projects using the SCRUM methodology. It has some simple and useful features such as the 2-week or 4-week sprint planning and the option of calculating the velocity of each sprint (i.e. the amount of work delivered). This is highly useful if you need to operate billing changes in the account of the client who ordered this project (hourly invoicing). However, in all other cases, such as the development of your own SaaS product, there were some features that got in our way such as:
- First of all, we did not want to stick to the original planning which restricted us to a few number of weeks. It was not important for us to follow a schedule, but to “provide a product with an added value”. It was wrong to say, “We’ve got 2 weeks to fill out with something”, so we just settled for, “I want my users to be able to pay for their booking; how long will it take?” Thus, we set up a milestone with a relevant delivery deadline: 1, 2, and 3 weeks; conversely, we kept all the relevant and useful data and prepared a release within one month of starting development.
- Secondly, we asked ourselves whether all the effort put in measuring processes was worth it. No, not at all. I am not saying that it is completely pointless, but it was useless in that particular case.
It is very interesting to note how people measure work effort. Often, I get asked: what is the perfect mix of analysis, development and project testing? This is frequently asked irrespective of the project management methodology. I think that past experience can only be useful if, and only if, it is used in the context of an identical project with the same client and the same team in the same context. As soon as the setting changes, past experience becomes irrelevant. When I was Project Manager, I spent a lot of time going through Excel files calculating, analyzing and trying to understand the past in order to improve estimates. This effort is only useful for estimates likely to please the client and reassure the person providing it, but these are far from being realistic if this is a different project.
So, how should you manage deadlines? Irrespective of your project management methodology, the only thing that really works is working with the client, periodic deliveries and ESPECIALLY clarity of objectives you truly need. Did you know that your clients often ask you things they do not really need because they expect you to cut down to the essentials? Why not stick to essentials?
Your company does not need to adapt itself to a particular methodology; it’s precisely your approach that needs to flexible enough to provide you the best return on investment. Sticking to instructions is useful when you’re a beginner; however, seasoned professionals need to own methodologies or come up with new ones!
… let’s not forget that the most important thing is understanding the reason behind each project. Humans need to understand in order to act.
This post was co-authored by:
ICF Professional Coach, Author and Speaker
With more than 15 years of IT experience, Geneviève has moved on from specialist to manager positions. She discovered the power of coaching tools and founded Unique coaching.