aliando agile IT service management, agile ITSM, Dana Stoll, agiles IT service management
aliando methods for agile IT service management, agile ITSM, Dana Stoll, agiles IT service management
aliando agile IT service management, agile ITSM, Dana Stoll, agiles IT service management
aliando methods for agile IT service management, agile ITSM, Dana Stoll, agiles IT service management
aliando methods for agile IT service management, agile ITSM, Dana Stoll, agiles IT service management

The Project is a Lie!

I had an interesting talk with Björn Schotte at the International PHP Conference 2010. We were thinking about continuous integration and agile development methodology. And project people. Project people are everywhere. Project people are promising to do things right. Project people look down derogatory on us agile hands-on folks. They draft up neatly designed plans. And models. Relationships between the detailed tasks add an air of engineering expertise. And one of great skill and achievement. True mastership. Although nothing has been created yet but a ton of digital paperwork of what maybe could be.


I haven’t ever seen a project get finished on time in the way it had been planned

Not a single one. Never! In the beginning there was silence, and as we got closer to our deadline, we covered it all the way until we saw that it really isn’t going to work out. Something unforeseeable happened. No, not something you would think of. Something obscure we really couldn’t calculate with. So we really cannot be blamed for. Or maybe something foreseeable happened. Or at least somebody thinks it may have been foreseeable if we would want to consider ourselves professional.

So the Project Manager would be the one who can be blamed. So we all put on our innocent and half-guilty faces. So we wouldn’t get fired, but only the project manager would. And let them search for somebody more appropriate. Somebody more professional. Which we thought the guy who just got fired actually was. At least, in the beginning, before this really annoying fact threw over our plans.

So, in order to be more careful next time, and to have some slack left at the end of the project, we cut down on resources and predate the deadlines a decent bit. And add some extra reporting cycles and progress charts. The next project dude will have to prove himself first, to earn our trust. Luckily he is proficient within the same tools so at least we didn’t have to buy new management software. This really is a good catch. This is The-(new)-One!

Finding new project managers usually is not a big problem, because:

There will always be somebody who promises the impossible just to win the contract

Unfortunately, the less convinced of their success they are, the quicker they are willing to come up with the promise. Only the really ruthless are really convincing. It’s the way acting works. I’ve never seen a decently sized business offer without any takers. It’s about money to be collected. Yet there seems to be a silent deal which comes with every contract, that, under some circumstances, it may be valid to gradually extend its resources. Due to difficulties you really could not foresee, and thus not be blamed for it, if you just look too insightful to be fired. It’s all a matter of good negotiation and some mutual truth repression syndrome.

Projects will change as the prerequisites change

They have to. Projects are bound to reality as it is just as each and every other single piece of matter in this universe is. And this universe is changing. Constantly. Enough to make it difficult to even forecast something as basic and well-known as the weather. Changing projects is a time consuming process though. Since we have to readjust and redraw all those neat charts including their dependencies, remodel project plans, renegotiate resources all the way from where we are now right to the end of the complete project. All the way to the end of the complete project! Again! Why are we doing this?

At the same time we get a tingling sensation that this might not be the last time we changed our project plan until we reach the very end of our resources, and maybe some kind of result. Then again, project assistants want to be paid as well. Even more, the plan we draw provides our customer with some feeling of security. Although we know, that this security is nothing but an illusion, the feeling is still there. And for some strange reason, this feeling of security seems to be the only reason we got the contract in the first place, since there really was no other justification.

Trusting in Long Term Project Plans is Dangerous

Hey! Deutsche Bahn says, their new Stuttgart station will be profitable within the next 100 years. One-hundred years! They may experience problems telling you about their upcoming quarterly results, doubled their initial cost estimation, and we don’t know if anybody wants to travel by train any more by then but who are we to question such thoroughly planned long-term expertise. Looking 100 years back in transportation, somebody would have probably thoroughly planned the profitability of some gigantic horse dung recovery plant, if he’d gotten a billion dollar contract.

One major attribute of projects is that projects are unique. They’re usually only carried out once, otherwise we would turn them into processes. This means, that projects always are and produce something new. New as in there is no experience with what we are creating in the environment we are creating it into. Not having this experience means that there will be a lot of unforeseeable things on our way, some of which we definitely will not like. This again means that there is high risk that we will have to adjust our project plans over and over. Let’s hope we don’t do this right through to the end each and every time, because it would be a real waste.

It is a lot less harmful to maintain agility right from the beginning.

The problem is with our gut feeling. Our engineering education taught us to get a good feeling if we see neatly designed project charts, high quality pictures and neatly dressed people in suits or costumes. We get a feeling of security if we encounter an illusion of long term stability, even if it isn’t there. Just as if we are watching some really fascinating happy end movie. However, we get a less pleasing experience if we are facing some turbulent mess we have to walk our way through. Like raking the yard or mowing the lawn in heavy weather. Unfortunately this turbulent mess, which we will have to fight ourselves through, will not vanish just because of some kind of illusion. Even if we fix a holiday picture over our window frame, outside it still rains, if it rains. We will have to cope.

I would rather prefer a method which helps me stay dry and not catch a cold than one which permanently tries to bribe me into thinking that everything’s in perfect order and the sun is shining when it can’t be.

The Project is a Lie.

Go agile. can help you, even if you already spent a ton on best practice methods. Particularly with IT service management.