Theory vs Reality in managing a project

Managing an IT project, web build or system integration? Lighten the load by putting War and Peace-style project management books to one side and check out 5 common sense points first:

  1. Agile or Waterfall?

    Every good project manager will have fought between choosing the right project management solution to use. How about looking at each client and project individually, as all are different. Some projects would benefit from Agile, but this needs lots of client buy-in. Others might warrant Waterfall, but this requires flexibility. Suggest adapting to both project and client needs by using a pragmatic approach to the requirements.
  2. Follow guidelines, not gospels

    Authors such as Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland have written extensively on project management methodologies, and their logic has made many a project walk on water. But you don't need to hang onto their every word. Use teachings as guidelines and don't be afraid to bend the rules.
  3. Chew the real fat

    Ultimately, we want as much client buy-in to a project as possible, to collaborate. But realise that this isn't always possible, so excellent communication is a must. Knowing the right time for this, and the detail needed is the key however. As Dostoyevsky said Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.
  4. Accept that things could go wrong

    Nine times out of ten, something is bound to not go quite as you'd planned. Managing a project is a rollercoaster ride of expected and unexpected issues and challenges. Accepting this, and reacting to it is the nirvana.
  5. Trust your common sense

    We all use common sense in situations in life, so why should we be so rigid in managing a project? Trust your instinct and take the opportunity to take a step back, even if you have a conveyor belt of deadlines ahead of you.

So, unless your project is almost exactly as described in the text books, always take a common sense approach to problem solving. Use theory to steer decision making but never neglect your instincts.

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