Unfolding plans 189 – Scrum down

It looks like I’m going to get to use scrum.  We’re going agile with our project methodology.  Goodbye PRINCE2, farewell Managing Successful Programmes and hello modernity.  Well, not quite but at least it’s a start.

Project management is a bit like Enterprise Resource Planning systems.  They work very well in certain environments but don’t necessarily translate into other areas.  ERP was developed in manufacturing to control the resources required in production.  The clue is in the name.  Since then they have been implemented in many areas unrelated to goods manufacture with varying degrees of success.  My own experience of ERP has been that we have ended up using only a small fraction of its functionality, primarily in finance and left the rest in the too difficult box.

PRINCE2 (projects in a controlled environment?) was originally based on PROMPT (Project, Resource, Organisation, Management and Planning Technique), a project management methodology created by the British company Simpact Systems Ltd in 1975.  PRINCE was launched in 1989 and became the de facto project methodology for government projects.

It offers project delivery through tight control, detailed planning and rigid procedures, at least from my perspective.  People often talk about PRINCE light which is a nod to its at times cumbersome bureaucracy.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think it has its place.  If you know where you are starting and where you are going to end then PRINCE might be the very thing.  A bridge building project for example may work very well.  Indeed all civil projects may fit in.  But when you are not certain of the outcome or the terrain you are crossing then it can lead you up the garden path.  If you are not careful all you do is plan and lose sight of delivery.

As Helmuth von Moltke the Elder put it ‘no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force’.  I think it was Napoleon who said that ‘I never had a plan of operations’.

Planning and operations do not mix.

It is a little unfair to use military metaphors as comparisons for what we are up to, though life does sometimes feel like a battle.  Our aim is not to capture territory or to kill anyone, at least not intentionally yet such observations ring true to many of us.  Why do so many of our projects, despite our best plans, not turn out as we had hoped?

As I started off then, it looks like I’m going to get to use scrum.  We have two very large pieces of work, the new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and the introduction of (at least to us) New Ways of Working.  Both need to be done at pace.   Both projects are going to affect everyone in the organisation.  Both have very large degrees of uncertainty and variety.  The CRM will be applied to multiple differing processes across the wide variety of delivery services.  The New Ways of Working will be introduced in all of the buildings that we have with all their variety and, again, across wide variety of delivery services.

Tight head anyone?

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