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Is there method in the madness?

For every advocate of the Agile Manifesto there is another proponent of the waterfall or incremental delivery models.  Whilst adopting different philosophies, all share the common goal of successful project delivery.  Does it follow that you must select one over another?  How do you choose?

Well don’t!  You shouldn’t rule out options that could turn out to be a great fit for the environment in which you’re operating.  Better outcomes can be achieved for complex projects by cherry picking, which may mean encouraging flexibility at times and applying control at others.

If talking to a specific method evangelist, this might not be the easiest stance to take, but in our experience, you can achieve better results through a blended approach.  If taking this route, there really is no substitute for experience though.  With it, you can successfully tailor your method and energise project start-up but be cautious if this experience is lacking.  In such circumstances an off the shelf method and accompanying individual method expert may be best advised to avoid the risk of your project otherwise descending into chaos.

To engineer a hybrid method (or for that matter appropriately select an off the shelf one), you must deeply understand the cultural and environmental characteristics of your business, the project and your supplier.  You must also assess the capabilities, objectives and expectations of each organisation and key stakeholder. Understanding these motivations will help you develop a personalised delivery approach as well as encourage a healthy dialogue.  This should be a day one activity and continually revisited throughout the project.  As the pressure dial is turned up over the duration of the project, you will find this to be a critical success factor for complex delivery.

There is no silver bullet though.  The truth is the delivery of complex projects is a complex business – with many diverse factors that can and do affect project delivery success.  Each approach brings its own strengths and weaknesses and there are environments and circumstances within which each will thrive.  By understanding your delivery environment, you will be able to navigate this world of possibilities (and potential minefields) and select a project configuration that best fits.

This could be the implementation of a Prince 2 project framework, the adoption of SCRUM or a combination of characteristics from both… or more!  But, and certainly if travelling off-piste, fundamental to success is the use of an experienced Project Management team – the battlefield of complex project delivery is littered with the corpses of fresh faced practitioners clutching their newly achieved method certification!