Project management is dead: long live change management

Call me a little old fashioned but over the last few years, spurred on by the demands of popular project methodologies like Agile, the practice of properly gathering, analysing and prioritising requirements seems to have become a thing of the past. Why is that, and is the new way of doing things really better?

I’ve worked on projects that have used waterfall, multi-waterfall and agile methodologies. Whilst much is made about difference between them, the reality for me has always been that it is the people, not the methodology, that have defined the success or failure of the project.

One of the biggest differences is often described as a reduction in documentation required by using agile-led ways of working. This is something of a misunderstanding; it’s not about less documentation but rather breaking the process up into smaller, more manageable chunks – and that includes the documentation.

The most significant problem I have observed as a result of this is that senior stakeholders in the project forego the process of properly understanding and analysing the full scope of a project and prioritising accordingly. In the race to make everything quicker and more efficient, we often forget that we still need to specify some boundaries. Our time, cost, quality triangle has gone out of the window and has been replaced by fortnightly sprints, standing up for ten minutes each morning and project plans that…well, there are no project plans anymore!

Except that, in large organisations at least, none of that is actually true. The need to control cost hasn’t gone anywhere. Nor has the demand to satisfy senior executives’ desire to predict the future with specific project implementation dates. And so, as project professionals, we find ourselves operating in a hybrid of hybrids. The agile multi-waterfall.

What all of this means is that we now try to run huge, complex projects without trying to constrain ourselves to specifying the deliverables in the early phases, but allowing them to evolve over the course of the project. We keep to a fixed deadline and “deliver” whatever we end up with when either the time or money runs out. Or worse, we keep going back for more.

And so, born from the desire to be more efficient, to evolve our designs and segment our projects into more manageable chunks that can demonstrate progress more quickly to our stakeholders, we have created the anti-thesis of project management. It is now possible for a project to have no end date, to have no fixed cost and to have no specified outcome.

In short, by not focusing on our requirements and prioritising what we want to deliver at the outset, we’ve killed the project management ethos and created something entirely new. We’ve created the change management industry.

Published by

Steven Hewlett-Light

An experienced, adaptable and creative leader with significant experience in banking across digital and project management disciplines. A proven delivery record on complex and challenging projects, a good understanding of web management, UX/UI, SEO and Copywriting. A strategist with a healthy passion for innovating new ideas and ways of working.

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