When we last left our intrepid Project Manager (Evil Scientist) he was fighting off the hordes of rioting Business Users and negotiating change requests. Not a good scene and something that could certainly be avoided.
It turns out that the answer to how we can build a better project has been done forever by nature. Nature in itself is intrinsically iterative and abhors big bang implementations. (except for ‘the’ big bang, but that is a topic for a different blog entry)
To start at the beginning, let us review what the evil scientist was trying to do. The very objective of the project had two essential criteria:
- To create life
- To have this new life follow his direction
Each of these essential criteria has a complementary concept in the Agile world. Let’s discuss both of them in sequence.
1. Creation of Life
As you can probably surmise, my analogy for being able to manage a project is exactly how nature creates life. The creation of life project has the following external milestones:
- Visioning at Conception
- Implementation at Delivery
Now there is an immense amount of work being done between these two external milestones and thanks to modern medicine we have more of an eye to this progress than previous generations. Although the creation of life is a 40 week project (for humans), the following systems are initially formed at the following milestones:
- Nervous System – 8 weeks
- Circulatory System – 4 weeks
- Skeletal System – 6 weeks
- Respiratory System – 6 weeks
- Digestive System – 6 weeks
As you can see, although the implementation date is far in the future, nature really delivers initial functionality on all major sub-systems 8 weeks into the project. (I know I am hugely simplifying this, but I’m hoping you will cut me some slack. :)) So by 20% into the project nature has an end to end prototype (pun intended), that nature can then add subsequent functionality to before the final release. Some of this additional functionality is the refinement of these major systems which includes:
- Full Skeletal Structure – 1o weeks
- Hearing – 17 weeks
- Breathing of Fluid – 28 weeks
- Ability to Suck Thumb – 28 weeks
One important piece of information is that from weeks 33-40 it is reported that there are no major qualitative changes. During this period there is just more refinement and ‘hardening’ of the baby. (And possibly some refactoring?)
Let me leave you with two questions:
- How much better shape would our projects be in if we had an end to end prototype built by the time we are 20% into the project?
- How much better shape would our projects be in if we were only hardening our solution in the last 20% of a project?
2. Project Management Style
The other comment I would like to make quickly is that the Project Manager style of the Evil Scientist is definitely ‘old school’. I fundamentally believe that the new Project Manager style is more of a parent. Now I do not mean this to imply that the child project is beneath the parent in knowledge at all. But that the Project Manager is meant to facilitate the learning and growth of the project. And by doing that the project will also teach the Project Manager. At the end we really do need to look at projects as not something to be led, but rather as something that learn, grow, and succeed.
Perhaps we should term this concept Embryonic Project Management? Should the 20% milestones nature uses at the start and end of the project simulated in a project?