Seeking the approaches that enable faster change in the complex world of health and social care
I find it ironic that traditional project management methodologies add risk to projects, especially when the methodologies spend so much time explaining how to manage risk.
The traditional project management approaches are based on a linear process designed to gaze into a ‘crystal ball’ for much of the project. Then, with the project most of the way through, work begins to implement whatever was in the ‘crystal ball’. Not until the end of the project does a real product emerge. However, without testing, evaluating and learning, surely this approach generates considerable risk, dependent entirely on the quality of your ‘crystal ball’ gazing at the beginning. I can remember going to project management training, knowing no better, and being told of the heroics of spending 50% of a project, planning. If you weren’t doing this then you are ‘planning to fail’ was the quote. Really, 50% of the overall time, without having tested or learned anything about the changes you are implementing, no benefits, no good news stories, just lots of analysis and detailed documentation. Surely, that would be risking it!
Luckily, there is a different approach where the end product is built in stages, with only a short period of ‘crystal ball’ gazing for each stage. Essentially, build part of the product, implement or test it, learn from the experience and build the next iteration. You’ll then have some small scale benefits, some stories about what’s happened (small wins) and something on which to base the next stage of analysis and documentation. Best of all, you’ll have got to this point with very little risk. This would be an iterative approach to making project changes, biting off the overall risk in small pieces, testing, learning and evaluating at each stage. Less risk, more credibility, earlier benefits and a better end point, what’s not to like?
If you still aren’t sure, this can be visually represented by the two images below, the first being the traditional linear project management approach:
With this second image is based on a staged, or iterative approach to projects:
Clearly the second image has less of the pink risk area, demonstrating the lower overall risk in the project.
So, if as a project manager you want to reduce risk, add ‘throwing away your traditional project management approach’ to your risk register and adopt the less risky iterative approach to project management. Don’t risk any other approach.