What is normal?

Abby-Normal?

Normal:

Noun: (n) convention, normal, pattern, rule, formula (something regarded as a normative example)

Adjective: (adj) normal (conforming with or constituting a norm or standard or level or type or social norm; not abnormal)

When I start planning anything I always try to remember that projects by their definition are not “normal”. According to the Project Management Institute a project is,

a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.

According to this definition a project is something that is abnormal (Abby-Normal?).  Projects create unique products or services. So, how would you fit it neatly into a “standard” methodology?  No. What happens when you do that is more like shoe boxes.  Each manufacturer of shoes has a general idea of the shoes they make and so they stock just 2 sizes of shoe boxes.  They have one for boots and another for the rest, flats, pumps, tennis shoes, and wingtips. It works well for shoe sales.  If you put a pair of flats in a boot box, it looks foolish and wasteful.  If you try to put the boots into the tennis shoe box they just won’t fit.  That is what we have when we believe that there are two methodologies for all types of projects.

Nice Fit

Methodologies are made for the cookie-cutter-made-from-the-mold, normal projects.  But the real world is not normal, the real world is messy and mixed up and doesn’t fit into categories well.

No two projects are ever the same.  So, why do we think that our project methodologies should fit every project?  Agile OR waterfall.  Neither, of these is “the answer”.  You will have to think about it (oh no!) and figure out what applies and what does not.  Just because something is a web project doesn’t mean that it should be a completely agile project.  I know that is sacrilege to many people but think about it and you will find it to be true.

I have worked on projects (web projects) where I used agile processes but the project just didn’t fit with the value propositions of agile, there was too much risk, not enough leeway for the team, and everyone suffered. The project and the team would have been better served to do the work in a more waterfall way. Not necessarily completely but more waterfall.

Just remember whatever your favorite approach to managing a project, you need to look at the whole picture and evaluate the best solution for the project as a unique piece of work.  You need a hybrid approach and that approach will vary depending on what your project is.