Dealing with Complexity in Software Projects – The theory that explains why Agile Project Management works

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Why do projects fail?

This is a question that haunts all project managers. Good and bad, experienced and beginners, Agile or non-Agile. The reason for that is simple: we believe that if we crack the code of why projects fail, we will be able to avoid failure in our own projects. After all who does not want to be in a successful project?

We believe that if we crack the code of why projects fail, we will be able to avoid failure in our own projects.

But before we can can answer such a difficult question, we need to understand the factors that influence project failure. Many will immediately say that lack of planning or bad planning are major causes for project failure. We’ve all been told that more planning is the solution. And we have been told that the “right” planning is the solution. Sure, we all know that, but does that “right kind of planning” look in practice?

Enter Agile…

We know that “the right planning” is the solution, but we need to have a functional definition of what that “right planning” looks like. Agile has contributed greatly to further our understanding of software projects. For example: thanks to Agile we now can confidently state that individuals and their interactions are a key enabler for successful projects, not just “the right kind of planning”. But there is more…

We are also starting to understand that there are some fundamental failures in the existing Theory of Project Management. Thanks for researchers like Koskela and Howell[1] we even have a framework to analyze what is wrong – very specifically – with traditional Project Management. Most importantly, that framework also helps us understand what needs to be different for projects to succeed in the new world of Knowledge Work.

In the article below (sign-up required) I explore the differences between the existing theory of project management and what Agile methods (such as Scrum) define as the new way to look at project management.

This paper explains some of the ideas that are part of  the “Chaos Theory in Software Projects” workshop. In that workshop we review the lessons learned from Complexity and Chaos theory and how they apply to Project Management.

The goal of the workshop is to give project managers a new idea of what is wrong in the current view of project management and how that can be changed to adapt project management to the world of Knowledge work. To know more about the workshop don’t hesitate to get in touch: vasco.duarte@oikosofy.com.

[1] Koskela and Howell, The Theory of Project Management: Explanation to Novel Methods, retrieved on April 2014
Picture credit: John Hammink, follow him on twitter

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