A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, (PMI, 2008) and as mentioned by Houseworth in 2011, “whatever the methodology you use it can work but use one!”.
Four main approaches are to be highlighted and could be used in a service creation, there could be more of course but these are the most current ones:
This approach is also often called the traditional one. This methodology is based on a sequence of steps to go through (Houseworth 2011) and the names of these can differ based on the source but align with Biafore and Stover (2012):
The first two are all about building the plan, the work breakdown structure, the resources, etc… while the last three are project activities that have to be run till project completion.
This methodology is working well for projects that are well defined with a clear scope and change management managed with rigor to avoid uncertainty and surprises.
These authors are also giving more attributes to help determining whether waterfall is the most relevant solution to adopt for a specific project:
• Simplicity or familiarity of what has to be done.
• Low risk i.e. similar project has been run in the past and pitfalls, mistakes are known and there is little uncertainty.
• Familiar technology, it is similar to low risk as all glitches and workarounds are known decreasing again the level of uncertainty in the project.
• Experienced resources availability to undertake the effort and bring it to completion.
Price and Kingley (2010) are summarizing pros and cons of the Waterfall approach explaining that it is an easy to learn and understand methodology that generated stage-gate variances and related methodologies. On the other hand, the plan is rigid and the methodology is not designed to deal with risks and so for a long run project, you end up with unrealistic projections.
“An agile methodology provides flexibility to perform work tasks based upon dependencies for each tasks. … within short duration iterations … Each work segment or deliverable is defined, planned, built, tested, delivered, then the team moves on to the next work segment.” (Houseworth 2011). This definition shows that the goal is to split the scope into smaller parts that can be delivered in isolation and bring requested quality through short duration iterations.
That will therefore mitigate the downside of the Waterfall approach if there is some uncertainty and if the solution is not clearly defined yet. Going through iterations will enable solution definition during the project.
Unfortunately in practice it happens often that the testing part of the delivery is not fully applied leading to the perception that agile methodology is used to justify failure by explaining that it is normal that quality is suboptimal due to the fact that there are still X iterations to go through.
Biafore and Stover (2012) describe the differences between Waterfall and Agile per step:
• Initiating: no change.
• Planning: will be more high level as the details will come during the iterations.
• Executing: team will be smaller, more autonomous and will work one iteration at a time.
• Monitoring & Controlling: progress monitoring still has to happen but reporting will be more frequent as the iterations are short in duration.
• Closing: there is a closure per iteration.
Larman (2003) also highlights the difference in management as planning and control will be devoted to the team while the manager will be more working on coaching, promoting agile principles, removing blockers, etc… i.e. having more of a servant leadership style. This might be more difficult is some companies if the culture is not ready for this. It should also be mentioned that Agile was meant, at least at the origin, for software development and not for services.
Verzuh (2008) explains that Lean project management emanates from Lean thinking and other applications in Lean manufacturing and construction. The basic fundamentals are to produce more output value with less waste in the project management context.
This also means that it is easier to implement Lean project management in a company that adopted it in its ways of working and culture.
From a project management perspective, Lean is based on Agile so we can look at what is common to both methodologies and also what are the differences (Cobb 2011):
• “Common principles:
o Focus on customer value
o Respect for people and empowerment
o Emphasis on learning and continuous improvement
o Iterative development approach
o Designing quality and integrity in the product
o Deciding as late as possible
o Eliminating waste”
o While Agile will focus on its specific project, Lean will tend to include a broader scope in terms of process definition to be used in other projects and therefore facilitate constant improvement.
o Lean can be used with traditional waterfall approach as well.
o Lean tends to more automation to drive standardization across projects while Agile is less tools driven.
o Agile is more people oriented e.g. while Agile promote sustainable pace, Lean does not prohibit working long hours.
While Waterfall and Agile can be described as methodologies, the literature shows Lean more like a philosophy that can apply to methodologies.
Extreme project management can be defined as: “the art and science of facilitating and managing the flow of thoughts, emotions, and interactions in a way that produces valued outcomes under turbulent and complex conditions: those that feature high speed, high change, high uncertainty and high stress.” (DeCarlo 2004).
It is a holistic approach that is realistic, humanistic, people and customer centric. This is all about projects where speed and innovation are highly important and the environment is unpredictable, messy and chaotic. In short “it is about planning, de-planning and re-planning” (Frank Saladis) and this has to happen just-in-time i.e. decisions have to be made on the spot and the triple constraint (time, costs, scope) is basically irrelevant in such an environment and change management is also just-in-time.
This can’t fit by definition with the three approaches described here above as by definition there will be no stage gates or other types of stringent controls you will adopt in Agile, Waterfall or Lean.
DeCarlo (2004) developed a set of principles, tools, values, skills and practices to deliver under these extreme circumstances:
• 4 accelerators to boost innovation and motivation
• 10 shared values to get trust amongst stakeholders
• 4 business questions for customers to get values early and often
• 5 critical success factors
Going in more depth about these is out of scope for this work but it is important to highlight that specific approach as it might have been an opportunity to develop in the context of a srvice creation.
BIAFORE, B. and STOVER, T., 2012. Your Project Management Coach : Best Practices for Managing Projects in the Real World. Hoboken, USA : John Wiley & Sons.
COBB, C. G., 2011. Making Sense of Agile Project Management: Balancing Control and Agility. 1st Edition. England: Wiley. Serge De Bock, PMP, ITIL MBA Dissertation 2012 75
DECARLO, D., 2004. eXtreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles, and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. 1st ed. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.
HOUSEWORTH, S., 2011. Project Management for Executives: And Those Who Want to Influence Executives. Bloomington, USA: iUniverse.
LARMAN, C., 2003. Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager’s Guide. 1st ed. Boston, USA: Addison-Wesley Professional.
PMI, 2008. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). 4th ed. USA: Project Management Institute Inc.
PRIES, K. H. and QUIGLEY J. M., 2010. Scrum Project Management. 1st ed. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press
VERZUH, E., 2008. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management (Portable Mba Series). 3rd ed. England: Wiley.