There are many discussions around what works and what doesn't work in the management of projects. Words like:
- Earned Value can't work for our problem. I've seen it fail, so it can't work.
- Agile is nonsense, it's not right for our domain.
- Requirements must emerge from the development of software, you can't possibly define what the system will do up front.
- I've taught 100's of project managers how to implement PMBOK® so I must be capable of managing real projects, no matter the domain.
- And endless other anecdotal examples of how a person with an opinion generalizes that opinion to the universe of problems.
Here's a suggestion. One that I've observed over the years. Those years having started in the late 70's when managing software development was an engineering role and having landed in the defense system program management world these days with formal probabilistic models of performance for billion $ programs.
Here's my suggestion. There are 5 IMMUTABLE principles of Project Management. These immutable principles keep coming up every time I hear someone speak about the problems they are having with a concept. The previous post was a trigger to restate these principles.
Five Immutable Principles
If you're going to successfully manage a project you must ask and answer these five questions. If you don't have credible answers for these five questions, do not proceed as a project manager. Stop, get the answers. Insist the stakeholder provide answers. Without credible answers, the project's probability of success is lowered. Possibly lowered to the point of assured failure.
The five immutable principles of project management are:
- Know where you are going by defining “done” at some point in the future. This point may be far in the future – months or years from now. Or closer in the future days or weeks from now.
- Have some kind of plan to get to where you are going. This plan can be simple or it can be complex. The fidelity of the plan depends on the tolerance for risk by the users of the plan.
- Understand the resources needed to execute the plan. How much time and money is needed to reach the destination. This can be fixed or it can be variable.
- Identify the impediments to progress along the way to the destination. Have some means of removing, avoiding, or ignoring these impediments.
- Have some way to measure your planned progress, not just your progress. Progress to Plan must be measured in units of physical percent complete.
In the absence of credible answers to these principles, you can come up with all kinds of reasons why things (methods, tools, processes) won't work. In fact you can come up with almost any reasons as to why projects fail.
Answering this principles in some credible manner doesn't assure success. But it goes a long way to improving the probability of success.