Friday, 14 January 2011

The Yellow Brick Build: A project methodology

Thunder! Thunder! Thund! 
In the world of project management methodologies there is a limited set of models we as a delivery team are asked to subscribe to. And once we do, often is the case where the project becomes a never ending battle between the theory and the reality. The best proposition for describing projects came from my old boss.

To quote:

"F*ck 'agile' and 'waterfall' - the new labels for project management are as follows: 'car crash' (small projects), 'train wreck' (medium sized projects), and 'airplane disaster' (large-scale projects)"
Sadly, the more prosaic options we have to select from are waterfall and agile. And everything else in-between. Like the challenge faced by physicists today I too am interested in understanding exactly what constitutes this ‘dark matter’.

Traditional models do work when applied to the right project correctly but in many cases a unique combination of people, money and ethereal dreams lead to straying off the beaten track.

Welcome to the Yellow Brick Build.

On the Yellow Brick Build we have the usual protagonists including: Dorothy, The Tin Man, Liono (from The Thundercats) and the Scare Crow. There is of course the good and bad witch, the wizard, the scary flying monkeys and, not to forget, the Yellow Brick Road.

But who is who in this allegorical methodology?

Dorothy, of course, is the project manager; leading her merry band forth with vague promises of personal reward and self improvement. Her unrelenting cheerfulness is the desired quality for a potentially fraught journey into the unknown. Projects do take their toll though, and the sight of a PM hunched over a Gantt Chart - with sound of heels clicking together echoing across the office - is not altogether an unfamiliar phenomenon.

The Tin man, Liono and the Scarecrow represent the delivery team - each with their own unique strengths and glaring weaknesses. Which discipline is heartless, cowardly or stupid varies greatly according who you ask. Some might say that certain disciples tick all the boxes but it would be rude – and ultimately bad for my career - to gossip.

The two witches – both good and bad – at a stretch could represent the client. Good clients – ones which are smart, understanding and reasonable – are a rare, benign being that should be cherished and written about in folklore until the end of time. Bad clients – really bad clients – are indeed wicked and deserve a comeuppance. Now I’m not saying that a house should fall on their head, or anything. Maybe a semi-detached or at least a garden shed.

The Bad Witch sends forth her monkeys into the sky to sabotage the journey. These are known by other names such as ‘scope creep’ or ‘changing requirements’.

I’m not sure who Toto represents but there are a few potential candidates for a small yapping dog.

And finally, we have the Wizard or – in this mangled metaphor - the End Goal.

I guess that neatly wraps up the characters in the story but it is the underlying narrative which tells the real story.

A motley crew of misfits head off into unchartered territory with ill defined ‘deliverables’, are plagued by ongoing problems and, after a long, traumatic journey, we are told the reward is what we've just learned.

We sure aint in Kansas anymore Toto.