Too many IT projects fail. The reasons projects fail are well documented: lack of communication, lack of scope definition, lack of change management, lack of executive buy-in, lack of resources, and the list goes on.
There are dozens of project and product management methodologies, hundreds of project management systems, and countless tools, tactics, certifications etc….. and yet projects still fail regularly (~20% according to Gartner in 2019).
Traditional/Waterfall and Agile are still the most well-known project management methodologies, but there are many other flavors like Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, LEAN, SixSigma, PRINCE2, XP, DevOps and many (many) more. All are similarly focused on successful delivery of a desirable outcome. Despite their admirable goal, and unique approaches, they are also all similar in that they regularly succeed and fail, so it is unlikely purely a matter of the methodology or tool. (Studies show that Agile fails less than Waterfall, but both fail regularly). There is a better way, and it is not a process or tool, it is a mindset shift.
At Echo, we have led many projects with many different project management processes and tools and different sizes of teams and organization size and structure. Our clients love our flexibility and creative approach to tailoring project management solutions to fit their organizational culture and team size & needs, but it is still not enough. A process is great, but what we have discovered teams really need, is dedicated time to practice and learn.
We like to use the analogy of basketball teams. The traditional / waterfall project management approach is to focus only on one major championship game, and ignore all competition until that championship game. This poses a major risk in that it typically ends up in a spectacular success (i.e. win), or a major failure (i.e. defeat). These projects are often considered “too big to fail” despite the fact that they do, regularly.
Agile project management method aims to minimize the importance of a single game, by adding many games to their season so that any one win or loss has less impact in their over-all standings. Basically they try to minimize risk, and make “it ok to fail”. They anticipate failure, but believe that they are small enough that overall the effort will be a success. – This is closer, but at Echo we think there needs to be time not just for deviation from the plan, but for intentional practice – with the goal of learning and sharing, vs completing a task assignment.
At Echo, we believe that that practice is critical to avoid failure and that it should have time allocated, just like basketball teams. Rather than aiming to minimize failure, we strive to maximize practice to achieve success. Our teams build resilience through practice and taking a proactive approach to skill-building so that they are ready to conquer problems that are sure to come their way.