Got some much-needed downtime from client work today so I spent a fair amount of time catching up on other folks' blogs. Timothy Johnson posted a piece on Agile project management with a reference to a substantial (and well worth reading) anti-Agile debate on Kevin Brady's blog. Good stuff, and I will of course weigh in on these issues.
In general, the troubles with any project management methodology centers around one or more of the following:
- Dysfunctional business organizations that cannot alter strategy, politics, or behaviors of principals necessary to make a methodology work.
- "Silver Bullet" Syndrome, where the organization thrashes about trying the flavor-of-the-month approach to projects, with high expectations, and rejecting such premises and moving on to another when results are not achieved and expectations aren't met.
- Lack of discipline and approach. Any project management process or methodology requires consistent and daily discipline on all involved's part to achieve positive outcome. When corners start to be cut, and exceptions start being made wholesale, trouble lurks immediately behind.
- Lack of respect or disdain for project management and project managers at an executive or managerial level.
- Clinging to one "right way" of doing things and treating such methods as the only way of accomplishing useful work and disrespecting/disdaining all other approaches.
I'm with Timothy here with respect to his comment that he's not into fad-du-jour methods, but is interested in using what works. I generally approach this issue with clients with the triple constraint/iron triangle approach (time, cost, scope). This model works well for just about any PM approach that I'm aware of, yet it's independent of any particular method. When evaluating methodologies, I find that measuring approaches against this model provides a lot of insight on how to approach specific projects. It also cuts out a lot of BS from folks who unrealistically think that a substantial project can be delivered in total in a few weeks or a couple of months (and vice-versa) - if that's true, evaluation against the model will show that. If not, then other approaches need to be considered.
Where I usually find huge resistance to specific methodologies are from evangelists of a particular method, and that's not surprising from people who make their livlihood advocating one method above all others as their economic interests in are high. This ranges across the spectrum from well-known Agilists to PMBOK-thumping process-oriented PMPs. Try mentioning Agile in your local PMI chapter meeting and measure the disbelief and badmouthing of Agile you will hear. I've done that twice in two separate PMI chapter meetings and I'm waiting for someone to attempt to revoke my membership...:)
The only holy grail I know of is this: use what works, consistently and with discipline. Cookie-cutter approaches can only solve part of the overall project equation. The skills, talent, and discipline of the PM, project teams, and sponsors/stakeholders provide the rest.