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Wise, Intelligent, and Agnostic Project Management

When it comes to branding PMs, there is always going to be a title du jour.  I see project management as one of those skills that builds with time. I don’t care if you are a PMP, CSM, CSSBB, or [insert certification title here].  I don’t believe you can just read about a process or approach, pass a test, and then suddenly be an expert.  Perhaps that is the difference between an intelligent PM and a wise PM.  The intelligent PM reads about a project management process and it become holy doctrine.  They hide behind a process blindly and operate projects on mere faith.  The wise PM reads and learns, interacts and learns, screws up and learns.  They base their decisions on human interaction, what they’ve studied, and past experiences.  It’s not perfect or predictable, but neither is life.

I used to believe, if a dynamic enough process algorithm was created, you could manage any project based on it.  I just don’t believe that anymore.

I’m not saying a Project Management Professional, Scrum Master, or Six Sigma Black Belt certification doesn’t have value.  They absolutely do if you study and practice and not just pass a test.  Studying each will increase your project management intellect.

I would describe myself as a practicing agnostic PM.  It’s not perfect.  But, if I take a little I’ve learned from each process and have a little faith (in the people I work with), I think it will provide my best chance for success.  But don’t forget that it’s still just a chance.

graphic courtesy of the bbp of Flickr

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

18 Responses to “Wise, Intelligent, and Agnostic Project Management”

  1. March 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Derek,
    I agree. If we define ourselves by the process, we limit how we are perceived. Rather, we should be defined by the value we provide to our organizations. An agnostic project manager is free to use whatever methodology best suits the situation to get work done.

    • Derek Huether
      March 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Ty, I know too many people in the industry who believe the dogma of the PMBoK or other doctrines, to a fault. Even worse, they focus so intensely on the tenets of the process, they forget why they are there in the first place. As you said, provide value. I’m not a PM zealot or atheist. I just look for that happy medium. I think there is value in all of the different approaches. By the way, I’m not into theology or anything like that. I just love to leverage different analogies to get my point across. Thanks for adding your comment. I love getting the feedback.

  2. March 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Derek,
    I agree. If we define ourselves by the process, we limit how we are perceived. Rather, we should be defined by the value we provide to our organizations. An agnostic project manager is free to use whatever methodology best suits the situation to get work done.

    • Derek Huether
      March 30, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Ty, I know too many people in the industry who believe the dogma of the PMBoK or other doctrines, to a fault. Even worse, they focus so intensely on the tenets of the process, they forget why they are there in the first place. As you said, provide value. I’m not a PM zealot or atheist. I just look for that happy medium. I think there is value in all of the different approaches. By the way, I’m not into theology or anything like that. I just love to leverage different analogies to get my point across. Thanks for adding your comment. I love getting the feedback.

  3. March 31, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Hi Derek, can you elaborate on the “agnostic” aspect of you being a “practicing agnostic PM”?

    Cheers, shim
    .-= Shim Marom´s last blog ..Projects Failure Rate – the Threequel =-.

    • Derek Huether
      March 31, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      Hey Shim, I hope this will clarify my religious analogy. The term Practicing Agnostic PM, to me, means I don’t subscribe to any one methodology or project management approach. Regardless if you are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Muslim, there is a book to identify a religion with. Based on religious affiliation, some may say others are wrong for what they believe. As an Agnostic PM, I’m going to say I believe in Project Management. I think all methodologies and approaches have something to teach us, if we have an open mind. All methodologies have the same intent, to deliver value. I’m sure some will think it’s blasphemous to compare project management to religion. Then again, I’ve sat in a room and listened to someone quote the PMBoK like it was some kind of scripture. To be a little more tongue-in-cheek, I think I’m more of a non-practicing ScrumMaster then an Agnostic PM. What about you?

      • April 1, 2010 at 5:33 am

        Derek,
        I think you, and me, are more polytheistic than agnostics.
        I think, as you say, each methodology has something good to teach us and Truth is in known them and apply in your organization or project taking the most appropiate.
        Warm regards,
        Angel
        .-= Angel Agueda´s last blog ..PRINCE2. Aprender jugando. =-.

      • April 1, 2010 at 8:31 am

        Derek,
        I believe in the same PM religion as you. I am a methodology agnostic. I will use any practice that will help my team succeed. I am not ashamed to use waterfall method if that’s what will work for the project. I will borrow agile practices and apply them in the middle of waterfall project. When things get crazy and we need to ship with a mandated budget and imposed date, then we will borrow from scrum or extreme. Now I see kanban and scrumban emerging and they are all starting to look the same and I feel like we are going back to a variation on the waterfall method. One can call these project management methodologies or product development methodologies or software development lifecycle. Who cares? The sponsors don’t care what methodology was used in the project. The end customers don’t care either. At the end of the day, when you deliver a successful project nobody (other than the PMO) really cares what methodology was used. They are just happy it is over. This philosophy and mindset is what prompted me to start the Guerrilla Project Management blog. I truly believe that like Guerrillas, project teams should be open to any tool, approach, or practice that will help them achieve their objective given the mission they are tasked with and the terrain they operate in. The moment you fall in love with your methodology, that’s when you develop blind spots and quickly get out of touch with reality. And with your hammer in your hand, you start looking for nails.

        • Derek Huether
          April 1, 2010 at 11:39 am

          Samad, you hit on something that resonated with me. The customer does NOT care! Get it done. Get it delivered. For the love of your God, deliver my product or service! I’m OK with hearing people being in love with an approach. But, they need to respect there are other approaches out there. If we both need to get from point A to point B, we both can get there using unique methods and neither of us is wrong. If we deliver value, we were both right.

      • April 1, 2010 at 9:07 am

        I’m a complete atheist mate. No gods anywhere, not up there and not down here. So I’m very much around your playground in that respect.

        You think there is a special hell for agnostic PM’s 🙂

        Cheers, Shim.

        • Derek Huether
          April 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

          Shim, I think my current assignment is a special kind of hell. 😉 Perhaps, for those who believe, I’m in PM Purgatory. One of the many reasons I blog.

  4. March 30, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Hi Derek, can you elaborate on the “agnostic” aspect of you being a “practicing agnostic PM”?

    Cheers, shim
    .-= Shim Marom´s last blog ..Projects Failure Rate – the Threequel =-.

    • Derek Huether
      March 31, 2010 at 6:20 am

      Hey Shim, I hope this will clarify my religious analogy. The term Practicing Agnostic PM, to me, means I don’t subscribe to any one methodology or project management approach. Regardless if you are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Muslim, there is a book to identify a religion with. Based on religious affiliation, some may say others are wrong for what they believe. As an Agnostic PM, I’m going to say I believe in Project Management. I think all methodologies and approaches have something to teach us, if we have an open mind. All methodologies have the same intent, to deliver value. I’m sure some will think it’s blasphemous to compare project management to religion. Then again, I’ve sat in a room and listened to someone quote the PMBoK like it was some kind of scripture. To be a little more tongue-in-cheek, I think I’m more of a non-practicing ScrumMaster then an Agnostic PM. What about you?

      • March 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm

        Derek,
        I think you, and me, are more polytheistic than agnostics.
        I think, as you say, each methodology has something good to teach us and Truth is in known them and apply in your organization or project taking the most appropiate.
        Warm regards,
        Angel
        .-= Angel Agueda´s last blog ..PRINCE2. Aprender jugando. =-.

      • April 1, 2010 at 1:31 am

        Derek,
        I believe in the same PM religion as you. I am a methodology agnostic. I will use any practice that will help my team succeed. I am not ashamed to use waterfall method if that’s what will work for the project. I will borrow agile practices and apply them in the middle of waterfall project. When things get crazy and we need to ship with a mandated budget and imposed date, then we will borrow from scrum or extreme. Now I see kanban and scrumban emerging and they are all starting to look the same and I feel like we are going back to a variation on the waterfall method. One can call these project management methodologies or product development methodologies or software development lifecycle. Who cares? The sponsors don’t care what methodology was used in the project. The end customers don’t care either. At the end of the day, when you deliver a successful project nobody (other than the PMO) really cares what methodology was used. They are just happy it is over. This philosophy and mindset is what prompted me to start the Guerrilla Project Management blog. I truly believe that like Guerrillas, project teams should be open to any tool, approach, or practice that will help them achieve their objective given the mission they are tasked with and the terrain they operate in. The moment you fall in love with your methodology, that’s when you develop blind spots and quickly get out of touch with reality. And with your hammer in your hand, you start looking for nails.

        • Derek Huether
          April 1, 2010 at 4:39 am

          Samad, you hit on something that resonated with me. The customer does NOT care! Get it done. Get it delivered. For the love of your God, deliver my product or service! I’m OK with hearing people being in love with an approach. But, they need to respect there are other approaches out there. If we both need to get from point A to point B, we both can get there using unique methods and neither of us is wrong. If we deliver value, we were both right.

      • April 1, 2010 at 2:07 am

        I’m a complete atheist mate. No gods anywhere, not up there and not down here. So I’m very much around your playground in that respect.

        You think there is a special hell for agnostic PM’s 🙂

        Cheers, Shim.

        • Derek Huether
          April 1, 2010 at 4:29 am

          Shim, I think my current assignment is a special kind of hell. 😉 Perhaps, for those who believe, I’m in PM Purgatory. One of the many reasons I blog.

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