Team Prioritization

I hate project management. It’s not just the Gantt charts that send shudders up my spine; it’s the inflexibility of the whole process. Once you’ve figured out goals for a team, detailed all the supporting tasks, and plugged in ownership and dates and dependencies for each task, it is an onerous process to make changes. I’m not sure whether it’s the inflexibility of the tools or the collective mind-set. In any case, traditional project management tends to stifle interaction with the organizational environment. If anything new or different pops up during the project, there are significant logistical barriers to integrating specified changes into the plan. Changes tend to cause a ripple effect on the whole endeavor, requiring new dates, owners, reprioritization, contingencies, and communication. Worse, when tasks are laid out at the beginning, they often get separated from the original goals. And when the goals become obsolete, for any reason, individuals rarely know this and continue blindly along, completing meaningless tasks on “the plan.”

A brilliant former colleague of mine, Chris Lopez, is an expert in lean/agile practices4 in software engineering; he has worked with many different teams to help them streamline their development processes and increase their ability to get stuff launched (such as products, features, or services). When he explained to me an entirely different method of project management, I was bowled over by how obvious and simple it was. ...

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