APM, XPM, And MPx Projects | Computer Science HomeworkHhelp

Planning APM, xPM, and MPx projects is done just-in-time, rather than at the beginning of the project as in TPM projects. How would you defend the statement that TPM projects take longer than any other project in the landscape? In 175 words or more

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CHAPTER 9 Complexity and Uncertainty in the Project Management Landscape

 

You have now completed the foundation of what I will call the traditional project management process. It was once the only way projects were managed. Then along came complexity, uncertainty, and a market that demanded speed and agility. The agile age was officially launched with the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, and we have since entered the twenty-first century with a huge collection of agile project management approaches. Most of them were for software development projects and little else. In the chapters of Part III, I will organize all of these approaches into the landscape defined in Chapter 2 and discuss when to use them, their strengths and weaknesses, and finally how to adapt them to the variety of project management challenges that you will encounter. The material from Parts I and II will be adapted to these unique and challenging high-risk situations. It is a project world filled with complexity and uncertainty, as described in this chapter.

Understanding the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain of Projects

The four-quadrant project landscape (Figure 9-1) is used first to categorize the project to a quadrant, and within that quadrant to select a best-fit PMLC model. But even having made that categorization and selected a best-fit PMLC model based on goal and solution clarity, you are not quite finished. Contemporary projects have become more uncertain, and along with this increased uncertainty is increased complexity and risk. Uncertainty is the result of changing market conditions that require high-speed and high-change responses to produce a solution in order to be competitive. Complexity is the result of a solution that has eluded detection and will be difficult to find. That imposes a challenge on the project manager to be able to respond appropriately. Hence the complexity of project management increases as well. Uncertainty and complexity are positively correlated. And finally, risk increases along with increasing complexity and uncertainty.

Figure 9-1: The Project Landscape

As you move through the quadrants from clarity to lack of clarity and from low uncertainty to high uncertainty, the project management processes you use must track with the needs of the project. Here’s a general word of advice: As you move through the quadrants, remember that “lots is bad, less is better, and least is best.” In other words, don’t burden yourself and your team with needless planning and documentation that will just hinder their efforts. As my colleague Jim Highsmith said in his book Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, 2nd Edition, (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2009): “The idea of enough structure, but not too much, drives agile managers to continually ask the question, ‘How little structure can I get away with?’ Too much structure stifles creativity. Too little structure breeds inefficiency.”

TPM projects are plan-driven, process-heavy, and documentation-heavy and hence are very structured projects. As you move to Quadrants 2 and 3, project heaviness gives way to lightness. Plan-driven gives way to just-in-time planning, which is change-driven and value-driven, rigid process gives way to adaptive process, and documentation is largely replaced by tacit knowledge that is shared among the team members. These are some of the characteristics of the many approaches that fall in the APM, xPM, and MPx quadrants. You will learn how to choose and adapt several models and approaches that fall under the umbrella of agile.

This notion of heavy versus light is interesting. I’ve always felt that any project manager must see value in a project management tool, template, or process before they are willing to use it. Burdening them with what they will perceive as a lot of non-value-added work is counterproductive, to be avoided, and will probably not be used by them in the spirit in which it was intended. This becomes more significant as the type of project you are managing falls into the TPM, xPM, or MPx quadrants. Furthermore, project managers will resist, and you will get a token effort at compliance. My overall philosophy is that the less non-value-added time and work that you encumber your project managers with the better off you will be. Replacing non-value-added work to make more room for value-added work will increase the likelihood of project success. This is the foundation for the lean approaches to complex project management (see Chapter 10). Time is a precious (and scarce) resource for every project. You need to resist the temptation to add work that doesn’t directly contribute to the final deliverables. Up to a point project managers should determine what is a value-add to their project processes and documentation. Make it their responsibility to decide what to use, when to use it, and how to use it. A good manager makes it possible for his or her project managers to be successful and then stays out of their way. I’ll get off my soapbox for now and get back to the discussion of project complexity and uncertainty.

Each quadrant of the project landscape has different profiles when it comes to risk, team, communications, client involvement, specification, change, business value, and documentation. This section examines the changing profile of each domain as a project moves from quadrant to quadrant.

Complexity and uncertainty are positively correlated with one another. As projects become more complex, they become more uncertain.

In the TPM models, you know where you are going and you know precisely how you are going to get there. The definition of where you are going is described in the RBS and how you are going to get there is described in the WBS. Your plan reflects all of the work, the schedule, and the resources that will get you there. There’s no goal or solution complexity here. As soon as you move away from a clearly specified solution, you leave the comfort of the TPM world and are in the APM world, which is no longer as kind to you. The minute you have uncertainty anywhere in the project, its complexity goes up. You have to devise a plan to fill in the missing pieces. There will be some added risk—you might not find the missing piece, or when you do, you find that it doesn’t fit in with what you already have built. Go back two steps, undo some previous work, and do the required rework. The plan changes. The schedule changes. A lot of the effort spent earlier on developing a detailed plan has gone to waste. By circumstance, it has become non-value-added work. If you had only known.

As less and less of the solution is known, the impact of non-value-added work on project success becomes more and more of a factor. Time has been wasted. APM models are better equipped than TPM models to handle this uncertainty and the complexity that results from it. The models are built on the assumption that the solution has to be discovered. Planning becomes less of a one-time task done at the outset and more of a just-in-time task done as late as possible during project execution. There is less and less reliance on a plan and more reliance on the tacit knowledge of the team. That doesn’t reduce the complexity, but it does accommodate it. So even though complexity increases across the TPM to APM to xPM to MPx landscape, you have a way to deal with it for the betterment of your client and your sanity as a project manager. Remember, project management is organized common sense and always aligned with good business decisions.

Requirements

The first place that you encounter complexity is in the RBS. As project complexity increases, the likelihood of nailing the complete definition of requirements decreases. To all observations it might look like you have defined the necessary and sufficient set of requirements that when built into the solution will result in delivering expected business value. But due to the complex interactions of the requirements that value may not be realized. Perhaps a missing requirement will surface. At a more fundamental level maybe project scope needs to expand to include the additional requirements needed to achieve expected business value. In a complex software development project, the extent of the number of requirements can be staggering. Some may in fact conflict with each other. Some may be redundant when it comes to contributing to expected business value. Some will be missing. Many of these may not become obvious until well into the design, development, and even integration testing tasks.

I recall a project to develop a wage and salary administration system. The system I envisioned was way ahead of its time and would strain the available technologies and software development tools. I was the senior budget officer for the organization, business analyst, and client for the project and was responsible for facilitating the process to gather and document requirements. I was familiar with all of the conventional processes for gathering requirements and felt that I had done an exemplary job. The resulting RBS and WBS was a 70-page description of more than 1,400 functions and features. Looking back on that project I don’t see how anyone could absorb a 70-page document and conclude that the WBS was complete. We assumed it was only to find out later that it wasn’t.

Flexibility

As the project complexity increases, so does the need for process flexibility. Increased complexity brings with it the need to be creative and adaptive. Neither is comfortable in the company of rigid processes. APM projects are easily compromised by being deluged with process, procedure, documentation, and meetings. Many of these are unrelated to a results-driven approach. They are the relics of plan-driven approaches. Along with the need for increased flexibility in APM and xPM projects is the need for increased adaptability. Companies that are undergoing a change of approach that recognizes the need to support not just TPM projects but also APM projects are faced with a significant and different cultural and business change. For one thing, the business rules and rules of the project engagement will radically change. Expect resistance.

Flexibility here refers to the project management process. If you are using a one-size-fits-all approach, you have no flexibility. The process is the process is the process. This is not a very comforting situation if the process gets in the way of common-sense behaviors and compromises your ability to deliver value to your client. Wouldn’t you rather be following a strategy that allows you to adapt to the changing situations rather than being bound to one that just gets in the way?

TPM projects generally follow a fixed methodology. The plan is developed along with a schedule of deliverables and other milestone events. A formal change management process is part of the game plan. Progress against the planned schedule is tracked, and corrective actions are put in place to restore control over schedule and budget. A nice neat package isn’t it? All is well until the process gets in the way of product development. For example, if the business situation and priorities change and result in a flurry of scope change requests to accommodate the new business climate, an inordinate amount of time will then be spent processing change requests and re-planning schedules at the expense of value-added work. The schedule slips beyond the point of recovery. The project plan, having changed several times, has become a contrived mess. Whatever integrity there was in the initial plan and schedule is now lost among the many changes.

APM is altogether different. Remember, APM, like all project management, is really nothing more than organized common sense. So when the process you are using gets in the way, you adapt. The process is changed in order to maintain focus on doing what makes sense to protect the creation of business value. Unlike TPM processes, APM processes expect and embrace change as a way to find a better solution and as a way to maximize business value within time and budget constraints. That means choosing and continually changing the PMLC model to increase the business value that will result from the project. Realize that to some extent scope is a variable in the complex project management world.

xPM and MPx projects are even more dependent upon flexible approaches. Learning and discovery take place throughout the project and the team and client must adjust on a moment’s notice as to how they are approaching the project. Risk of failure is very high and how you use available resources must be protected by the project management process.

Adaptability

The less certain you are of project requirements, functionality, and features, the more need you will have to be adaptable with respect to process and procedure. Adaptability is directly related to the extent to which the organization empowers your team to act. The ability of your team to adapt increases as empowerment becomes more pervasive. To enable your team members to be productive, senior managers need to stay out of their way as much as possible. One way to stay out of their way is to clearly define and agree with them about what they are to do and by when, but be careful not to overstep your role as an effective project manager by telling your team members how to complete their assignments. Don’t impose processes and procedures that stifle team and individual creativity! This would be the death knell of any complex project. Instead, create an environment that encourages creativity. Don’t encumber the team members with the need to get sign-offs that have nothing to do with delivering business value. Pick your project manager and team members carefully and trust them to act in the best interest of the client.

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Risk vs. the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

Project risk increases as the project falls in the TPM, APM, xPM, and MPx categories. In TPM, you clearly know the goal and the solution and can build a definitive plan for getting there. Templates that have had the test of time are often used and any risks associated with their use are minimal. The exposure to risks associated with product failure will be low. The focus can then shift to process failure. A list of candidate risk drivers would have been compiled over past similar projects. Their likelihood, impact, and the appropriate mitigation strategies will be known and documented. Like a good athlete, you will have anticipated what might happen and know how to act if it does.

As the project takes on the characteristics of APM, two forces come into play. First, the PMLC model becomes more flexible and lighter. The process burden lessens as more attention is placed on delivering business value than on conformance to a plan. At the same time, project risk increases. Risk increases in relation to the extent to which the solution is not known. On balance, that means more effort should be placed on risk management as the project moves through APM and looks more like an xPM project. There will be less experience with these risks because they are specific to the product being developed. In xPM and MPx projects, risk is the highest because you are in an R & D environment. Process risk is almost nonexistent because the ultimate in flexibility has been reached in this quadrant but product risk is extremely high. There will be numerous product failures because of the highly speculative nature of xPM and MPx projects, but that is okay. Those failures are expected to occur. Each product failure gets you that much closer to a feasible solution, if such a solution can be found within the operative time and budget constraints. At worst, those failures eliminate one or more paths of investigation and so narrow the range of possible solutions for future projects.

Team Cohesiveness versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

In TPM, the successful team doesn’t really have to be a team at all. You assemble a group of specialists and assign each to their respective tasks at the appropriate times. Period. Their physical location is not important. They can be geographically dispersed and still be successful. The plan is sacred and the plan will guide the team through their tasks. It will tell them what they need to do, when they need to do it, and how they will know they have finished each task. So the TPM plan has to be pretty specific, clear, and complete. Each team member knows his or her own discipline and is brought to the team when needed to apply their skills and competencies to a set of specific tasks. When they have met their obligation, they often leave the team to return later if needed.

The situation quickly changes if the project is an APM, xPM, or MPx project. First of all, there is a gradual shift from a team of specialists to a team of generalists. The team becomes more self-organizing, self-sufficient, and self-directing as the project moves across the quadrants. TPM teams do not have to be co-located. Although co-location would make life a bit easier for the project manager, it is not a necessity.

It is highly recommended that APM, xPM, and MPx teams be co-located. Research has shown that co-location adds significantly to the likelihood of successful completion of these complex projects. However, often conditions render co-location unlikely despite arguments to the contrary. Not being co-located creates communication and coordination problems for the project manager. Most complex projects require a creative environment be established and having a co-located team makes that a bit easier. One of the first APM projects I managed had a team of 35 professionals scattered across 11 time zones. Thirty-five is a large APM team but it is manageable. We were still able to have daily 15-minute team meetings! Despite the communications obstacle, the project was successfully completed, but I have to admit that this project added considerably more management overhead for me than there would have been if the team was co-located.

Communications versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

The Standish Group surveys over the past decade or more have found that the lack of timely and clear people-to-people communications is the most common root cause for project failure. I am referring here to both written and verbal communications media. The following is the current prioritized list of the top 10 reasons for project failure as reported in the Standish Group CHAOS 2010 Report.

Projects fail because of:

  1. Lack of user input
  2. Incomplete requirements and specification
  3. Changing requirements and specification
  4. Lack of executive support
  5. Technology incompetence
  6. Lack of resources
  7. Unrealistic expectations
  8. Unclear objectives
  9. Unrealistic time frames
  10. New technology

The first three items on the list are related to people-to-people communications, either direct or indirect.

As a project increases in complexity and heightened uncertainty, communication requirements increase and change. When complexity and uncertainty are low, the predominant form of communications is one-way (written, for example). Status reports, change requests, meeting minutes, issues reporting, problem resolution, project plan updates, and other written reports are commonplace. Many of these are posted on the project’s website for public consumption. As uncertainty and complexity increase, one-way communication has to give way to two-way communication, so written communications give way to meetings and other forums for verbal communication. Distributed team structures give way to co-located team structures to support the change in communications modes. The burden of plan-driven approaches is lightened, and the communications requirements of value-driven approaches take over.

Value-driven communications approaches are the derivatives of meaningful client involvement where discussions generate status updates and plans going forward. Because projects that are high in complexity and uncertainty depend on frequent change, there is a low tolerance of written communications. In these project situations, the preparation, distribution, reading, and responding to written communications is viewed as a heavy burden and just another example of non-value-added work. It is more for historical record-keeping than it is for action items. It is to be avoided, and the energy should be spent on value-added work.

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Client Involvement versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

Consider for a moment a project where you were very certain of the goal and the solution. You would be willing to bet your first-born that you had nailed requirements and that they would not change. (Yes, that type of project may just be a pipe dream, but give me the benefit of the doubt for just a moment.) For such a project, you might ask: “Why do I need to have my client involved except for the ceremonial sign-offs at milestone events?” This is a fair question, and ideally you wouldn’t need the client’s involvement. How about a project at the other extreme, where the goal is very elusive or a pipe dream and no solution would seem to be in sight? In such cases, the complete involvement of the client, as a team member perhaps, but at least as a subject matter expert (SME) would be indispensable. What I have been describing here are the extreme cases in the project landscape.

TPM projects are plan-driven and team-driven projects. Client involvement is usually limited to answering clarification questions as they arise and giving sign-offs and approvals at the appropriate stages of the project life cycle. It would be accurate to say that client involvement in TPM projects is reactive and passive. But all that changes as you move into APM projects. Clients must now take a more active role in APM projects than was their role in TPM projects. For xPM projects, meaningful client involvement is essential. In fact, the client should take on a proactive role. The project goes nowhere without that level of commitment from the client.

Finding the solution to a project goal is not an individual effort. In TPM, the project team under the leadership of the project manager is charged with implementing a known solution. In some cases, the client will be passively involved, but for the most part, it is the team that will implement the known solution. The willingness of clients to even get passively involved will depend on how you have dealt with them during project execution. They are clearly in a followership role. If you bothered to include them in the planning of the project, they may have some sympathy and help you out. But don’t count on it. Beginning with APM and extending through xPM there is more and more reliance on meaningful client involvement. Clients move from a followership role to a collaborative role and even to a leadership role. In your effort to maintain client-focus and deliver business value, you are dealing with a business problem, not a technology problem. You have to find a business solution. Who is better equipped to help than clients? After all, you are dealing with their part of the business. Shouldn’t they be the best source of help and partnership in finding the solution? You must do whatever it takes to leverage that expertise and insight. Client involvement is so critical that without it you have no chance of being successful with complex projects.

Achieving and sustaining meaningful client involvement can be a daunting task for at least the three reasons cited in the following subsections.

The Client’s Comfort Zone

Ever since the 1950s, project managers have trained clients to take a passive role. We trained them well, and now we have to retrain them. In many instances, their role was more ceremonial than formal. They didn’t understand what they were approving but had no recourse but to sign. The sign-off at milestone events was often a formality because the client didn’t understand the techie-talk, was afraid not to sign-off because of the threat of further delays, and didn’t know enough about development to know what kinds of questions to ask, when to ask them, and when to push back. Now we are asking them to step into a new role and become meaningfully engaged throughout the project life cycle. Many are not poised to take up that responsibility. That responsibility is ratcheted up a notch as the project moves further into the APM quadrant toward the xPM and MPx quadrants, where less is known about the situation. The project team is faced with a critical success factor of gaining meaningful client involvement throughout the PMLC. In an xPM project, the client’s involvement is even more proactive and engaging. xPM projects require that the client take a co-leadership role with the project manager to keep the project moving forward and adjusted in the direction of increasing business value.

At the same time, the clients’ comfort zone is growing. They have become smarter. It is not unusual to find clients who are now more willing to get technically involved. They go to conferences where presentations often include technical aspects. They now know how to push back. They know what it takes to build solutions. They’ve built some themselves using spreadsheet packages and other applications tools. That has two sides. These types of clients can be supportive, or they can be obstacles to progress.

Here is my suggestion to attain and sustain meaningful client involvement. Training, training, and more training. I have delivered client (and yes, team) training in preparation for a project, and I have also delivered it concurrently with project execution. Both can be effective.

Ownership by the Client

Establishing ownership by the client of APM and xPM projects’ product and process is critical. I often ensure there is that ownership by organizing the project team around co-managers—one from the developer side and one from the client side. These two individuals are equally responsible for the success and failure of the project. That places a vested interest squarely on the shoulders of the client co-manager. In my experience the co-manager approach has been the only consistently successful approach for establishing and sustaining meaningful client involvement that I know of.

This sounds really good on paper, but it is not easily done. I can hear my clients saying, “This is a technology project and I don’t know anything about technology. How can I act in a managerial capacity?” The answer is simple, and it goes something like this: “True, you don’t have a grasp of the technology involved, but that is a minor point. Your real value to this endeavor is to keep the business focus constantly in front of the team. You can bring that dimension to the team far better than any of the technical people on the team. You will be an indispensable partner in every decision situation faced in this project.” This ownership is so important that I have even postponed starting client engagements because clients can’t send a qualified spokesperson to the planning meeting. When they do, you have to be careful that they don’t send you a weak representative who just isn’t busy at the time or who doesn’t really understand the business context of the project. Maybe there was a reason that person wasn’t busy.

Client Sign-Off

This has often been the most anxiety-filled task that you will ever ask of your clients. Some clients think that they are signing their lives away when they approve a document or a deliverable. You are going to have to dispel that perception. We all know that we live in a world of constant change, high speed, and high risk. Given that, how could anyone reasonably expect that what works today will work tomorrow? Today’s needs may not even come up on the radar screen next week. On no project, no matter how certain you are that you have nailed the RBS, can you expect the RBS to remain static for the length of the project. It simply won’t happen. That means you had better anticipate change as a way of life in most PMLC models.

Client sign-off becomes a non-issue in the co-manager approach. The client is fully aware of the current project status and, in fact, has participated in the decisions leading to that status. Their anxieties and fears will have been mitigated.

Specification versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

What does this mean? Simply put, it advises you that the choice of PMLC model should be based on an understanding of the confidence you have that the specifications have been completely and clearly defined and documented and that scope change requests will not arise from any shortcomings in the specifications documents. As specification uncertainty increases, your best choices lie first in the Iterative models that populate the APM quadrant and then in the Adaptive models that populate the APM quadrant—those that allow the solution to become more specific and complete as the project commences or that allow you to discover the solution as the project commences. If you have very little confidence that you have clearly and completely documented the specifications, then your PMLC model takes on the flavor of the research and development models that populate the xPM and MPx quadrants.

The PMLC models that require a high level of specification certainty (Linear and Incremental) tend to be change-intolerant. Consider the situation where a significant change request comes early in the project life cycle. That could render much of the planning work obsolete. A large part of it will have to be done over. That contributes to the non-value-added work time of the PMLC model you have chosen. If changes like that are to be expected, a PMLC model that is more tolerant and supportive of change should have been chosen. The non-value-added work could have been greatly diminished or removed altogether. Lean agile models address the issue of non-value added work. The Adaptive Project Framework (APF) is one example of a lean agile model (see Chapters 10 and 12).

If you look inside the specifications document, there is more detailed information that might help you decide on the best PMLC model. Specifications are composed of the RBS and WBS. These are often displayed in a hierarchical structure that was introduced in Chapter 4 and is reproduced here as Figure 9-2.

At the highest level are the requirements. These form a necessary and sufficient set for meeting the expected business value. The illustrated hierarchy is the complete hierarchy that even the most complex and comprehensive requirement might need in order to be clearly understood. In most cases only some subset of the hierarchy will be needed for a requirement. Remember that your objective in defining this hierarchy is so that the client and the project team will clearly understand what the requirement entails. Use your common sense in deciding what that decomposition should look like. There are no objective criteria for deciding on that decomposition.

Figure 9-2: The Requirements Breakdown Structure

Uncertainty at the requirements level has more impact on your choice of PMLC model than does uncertainty at the functionality level, which has more impact than uncertainty at the feature level. And despite all of your efforts to the contrary, you can still have changes on any one of these three fronts that could have significant impact on your decisions and best efforts. That’s just some of the surprises you will encounter in your daily life as a project manager.

Gauging the integrity of the specification document will always be a subjective assessment. Based on that subjective assessment, you choose a PMLC model, make the appropriate adaptations, and hope you made a good decision. Time will tell.

Change versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

As complexity increases, so does the need to receive and process change requests. A plan-driven project management approach is not designed to effectively respond to change. Change upsets the order of things as some of the project plan is rendered obsolete and must be redone. Resource schedules are compromised and may have to be renegotiated at some cost. The more that change has to be dealt with, the more time is spent processing and evaluating those changes. That time is forever lost to the project. It should have been spent on value-added work. Instead it was spent processing change requests.

You spent so much time developing your project plan for your TPM project that the last thing you want is to have to change it. But that is the reality in TPM projects. Scope change always seems to add more work. Did you ever receive a scope change request from your client that asked you to take something out? Not too likely. The reality is that the client discovers something else they should have asked for in the solution. They didn’t realize or know that at the beginning of the project. That leads to more work, not less. The decision to use TPM models is clear. Use TPM models when specifications are as stable as can be. The architects of the APM and xPM models knew how stability of specifications affected choice of the PMLC model and so designed approaches that expected change and were ready to accommodate it. Invoking a just-in-time planning model is one such technique. You’ll see how WBS stability and completeness impacts PMLC model choice in more detail in Chapters 10, 11, and 12.

The less you know about requirements, functionality, and features, the more you have to expect change. In TPM, you assume that you and the client know everything there is to know about requirements, functionality, and features for this project as can be known. You assume that the RBS and WBS are complete. The assumption then is that there will be little or no internal forces for change during the development project. Externally, however, that is not the case. Actions of competitors, market forces, and technological advances may cause change, but that is true for every project and can only be expected. The best the enterprise can do is maintain a position of flexibility in the face of such unpredictable but certain events.

APM is a different story altogether. Any change in the position of the project in this quadrant will come about through the normal learning process that takes place in any project. When the client has the opportunity to examine and experiment with a partial solution, they will invariably come back to the developers with suggestions for other requirements, functionality, and features that should be part of the solution. These suggestions can be put into one of two categories: either they are wants or they are needs (see Chapter 4). For more details on distinguishing the difference between wants and needs see The New Rational Manager by Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe (Kepner-Tregoe Publishers, 1997).

Wants may be little more than the result of a steak appetite on a baloney budget. It is up to the project manager to help clients defend their wants as true needs and hence build the business case for integrating the changes into the solution. If clients fail to do that, their suggestions should be relegated to a wish list. Wish lists are seldom revisited. On the other hand, if a client demonstrates the true value of what they want, it can be transferred to a true need. It is up to the project manager to accommodate that new requirement, functionality, or feature into the solution set. It may have to be prioritized in the list of all needs not yet integrated into the solution. The COS session is the best place to make these decisions. Often you should back this up with a Root Cause Analysis (see Chapter 13). In xPM projects, there is yet a further reliance on change to affect a good business-valued product. In fact, xPM projects require change in order to have any chance at finding a successful solution. Change is the only vehicle that will lead to a solution.

The bottom line here is that as the project type moves across the landscape, the scope change management process changes as well.

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Business Value versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

This domain would seem to be trivial. After all, aren’t all projects designed to deliver business value? These projects were commissioned based on the business value they would return to the enterprise. This is all true. However, TPM projects focus on meeting the plan-driven parameters: time, cost, and scope. When the project was originally proposed, the business climate was such that the proposed solution was the best that could be had. In a static world, that condition would hold. Unfortunately the business world is not static, and the needs of the client aren’t either. The bottom line is this: what will deliver business value is a moving target. TPM PMLC models aren’t equipped with the right stuff to assure the delivery of business value. TPM PMLC models deliver to specification within cost and time constraints. In the final analysis, that has nothing to do with delivering business value. That can only happen through APM, xPM, and MPx models.

It follows then that TPM projects potentially deliver the least business value and that business value increases as you move from TPM to APM to xPM. At the same time, risk also increases, which means that higher-valued projects are expected in order to be commissionable as you move across the quadrants. Remember that the expected business value of a project is the product of (1 – risk) and value. Here, risk is expressed as the probability of failure, and the probability of success is therefore (1 – risk). So if you were able to repeat this project a number of times, the average business value you would realize is the product of (1 – risk) and value.

What does this mean? Simply put, whatever PMLC model you adopt for the project, it must be one that allows redirection as business conditions change. The more uncertainty that is present in the development project, the more need there is to be able to redirect the project to take advantage of changing conditions and opportunities.

As projects move through TPM, APM, and xPM, they become more client-facing. The focus changes from conformance to plan to delivery of business value. The TPM models focus on conformance to plan. If they also happen to deliver maximum business value, it would be more the result of the inevitable statistical probability that sometimes things just turn out well than the result of a clairvoyant project plan. The focus on delivery of business value is apparent and up-front in all of the APM and xPM project management approaches. It is designed into their PMLC models.

Putting It All Together

The definition of the project landscape is mine and mine alone. I like simplicity and intuitiveness, and my definition provides exactly that. It is also a definition that encompasses every project that ever existed and ever will exist, so there is no reason to ever change it! That means it can be used as a foundation for all further discussion about PMLC models. There is a certain academic soundness and theoretical base to that approach. In fact, it is the beginnings of a project management discipline. At the same time, the definition has a very simple and practical application. That base will be the foundation on which all best-fit project management approach decisions can be made. As you will see in the chapters that follow, I will be able to exploit that base from both a conceptual and applications perspective.

Using the project landscape as the foundation for managing projects, I have defined the remaining four PMLC models at the Process Group level of detail. The definitions give a clear and intuitive picture of how project management approaches can vary as the degree of uncertainty changes. Within each PMLC model, there will be a number of specific instantiations of the model. These will be discussed in Chapters 10, 11, and 12.

CHAPTER 9 Complexity and Uncertainty in the Project Management Landscape

 

You have now completed the foundation of what I will call the traditional project management process. It was once the only way projects were managed. Then along came complexity, uncertainty, and a market that demanded speed and agility. The agile age was officially launched with the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, and we have since entered the twenty-first century with a huge collection of agile project management approaches. Most of them were for software development projects and little else. In the chapters of Part III, I will organize all of these approaches into the landscape defined in Chapter 2 and discuss when to use them, their strengths and weaknesses, and finally how to adapt them to the variety of project management challenges that you will encounter. The material from Parts I and II will be adapted to these unique and challenging high-risk situations. It is a project world filled with complexity and uncertainty, as described in this chapter.

Understanding the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain of Projects

The four-quadrant project landscape (Figure 9-1) is used first to categorize the project to a quadrant, and within that quadrant to select a best-fit PMLC model. But even having made that categorization and selected a best-fit PMLC model based on goal and solution clarity, you are not quite finished. Contemporary projects have become more uncertain, and along with this increased uncertainty is increased complexity and risk. Uncertainty is the result of changing market conditions that require high-speed and high-change responses to produce a solution in order to be competitive. Complexity is the result of a solution that has eluded detection and will be difficult to find. That imposes a challenge on the project manager to be able to respond appropriately. Hence the complexity of project management increases as well. Uncertainty and complexity are positively correlated. And finally, risk increases along with increasing complexity and uncertainty.

Figure 9-1: The Project Landscape

As you move through the quadrants from clarity to lack of clarity and from low uncertainty to high uncertainty, the project management processes you use must track with the needs of the project. Here’s a general word of advice: As you move through the quadrants, remember that “lots is bad, less is better, and least is best.” In other words, don’t burden yourself and your team with needless planning and documentation that will just hinder their efforts. As my colleague Jim Highsmith said in his book Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, 2nd Edition, (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2009): “The idea of enough structure, but not too much, drives agile managers to continually ask the question, ‘How little structure can I get away with?’ Too much structure stifles creativity. Too little structure breeds inefficiency.”

TPM projects are plan-driven, process-heavy, and documentation-heavy and hence are very structured projects. As you move to Quadrants 2 and 3, project heaviness gives way to lightness. Plan-driven gives way to just-in-time planning, which is change-driven and value-driven, rigid process gives way to adaptive process, and documentation is largely replaced by tacit knowledge that is shared among the team members. These are some of the characteristics of the many approaches that fall in the APM, xPM, and MPx quadrants. You will learn how to choose and adapt several models and approaches that fall under the umbrella of agile.

This notion of heavy versus light is interesting. I’ve always felt that any project manager must see value in a project management tool, template, or process before they are willing to use it. Burdening them with what they will perceive as a lot of non-value-added work is counterproductive, to be avoided, and will probably not be used by them in the spirit in which it was intended. This becomes more significant as the type of project you are managing falls into the TPM, xPM, or MPx quadrants. Furthermore, project managers will resist, and you will get a token effort at compliance. My overall philosophy is that the less non-value-added time and work that you encumber your project managers with the better off you will be. Replacing non-value-added work to make more room for value-added work will increase the likelihood of project success. This is the foundation for the lean approaches to complex project management (see Chapter 10). Time is a precious (and scarce) resource for every project. You need to resist the temptation to add work that doesn’t directly contribute to the final deliverables. Up to a point project managers should determine what is a value-add to their project processes and documentation. Make it their responsibility to decide what to use, when to use it, and how to use it. A good manager makes it possible for his or her project managers to be successful and then stays out of their way. I’ll get off my soapbox for now and get back to the discussion of project complexity and uncertainty.

Each quadrant of the project landscape has different profiles when it comes to risk, team, communications, client involvement, specification, change, business value, and documentation. This section examines the changing profile of each domain as a project moves from quadrant to quadrant.

Complexity and uncertainty are positively correlated with one another. As projects become more complex, they become more uncertain.

In the TPM models, you know where you are going and you know precisely how you are going to get there. The definition of where you are going is described in the RBS and how you are going to get there is described in the WBS. Your plan reflects all of the work, the schedule, and the resources that will get you there. There’s no goal or solution complexity here. As soon as you move away from a clearly specified solution, you leave the comfort of the TPM world and are in the APM world, which is no longer as kind to you. The minute you have uncertainty anywhere in the project, its complexity goes up. You have to devise a plan to fill in the missing pieces. There will be some added risk—you might not find the missing piece, or when you do, you find that it doesn’t fit in with what you already have built. Go back two steps, undo some previous work, and do the required rework. The plan changes. The schedule changes. A lot of the effort spent earlier on developing a detailed plan has gone to waste. By circumstance, it has become non-value-added work. If you had only known.

As less and less of the solution is known, the impact of non-value-added work on project success becomes more and more of a factor. Time has been wasted. APM models are better equipped than TPM models to handle this uncertainty and the complexity that results from it. The models are built on the assumption that the solution has to be discovered. Planning becomes less of a one-time task done at the outset and more of a just-in-time task done as late as possible during project execution. There is less and less reliance on a plan and more reliance on the tacit knowledge of the team. That doesn’t reduce the complexity, but it does accommodate it. So even though complexity increases across the TPM to APM to xPM to MPx landscape, you have a way to deal with it for the betterment of your client and your sanity as a project manager. Remember, project management is organized common sense and always aligned with good business decisions.

Requirements

The first place that you encounter complexity is in the RBS. As project complexity increases, the likelihood of nailing the complete definition of requirements decreases. To all observations it might look like you have defined the necessary and sufficient set of requirements that when built into the solution will result in delivering expected business value. But due to the complex interactions of the requirements that value may not be realized. Perhaps a missing requirement will surface. At a more fundamental level maybe project scope needs to expand to include the additional requirements needed to achieve expected business value. In a complex software development project, the extent of the number of requirements can be staggering. Some may in fact conflict with each other. Some may be redundant when it comes to contributing to expected business value. Some will be missing. Many of these may not become obvious until well into the design, development, and even integration testing tasks.

I recall a project to develop a wage and salary administration system. The system I envisioned was way ahead of its time and would strain the available technologies and software development tools. I was the senior budget officer for the organization, business analyst, and client for the project and was responsible for facilitating the process to gather and document requirements. I was familiar with all of the conventional processes for gathering requirements and felt that I had done an exemplary job. The resulting RBS and WBS was a 70-page description of more than 1,400 functions and features. Looking back on that project I don’t see how anyone could absorb a 70-page document and conclude that the WBS was complete. We assumed it was only to find out later that it wasn’t.

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Flexibility

 

As the project complexity increases, so does the need for process flexibility. Increased complexity brings with it the need to be creative and adaptive. Neither is comfortable in the company of rigid processes. APM projects are easily compromised by being deluged with process, procedure, documentation, and meetings. Many of these are unrelated to a results-driven approach. They are the relics of plan-driven approaches. Along with the need for increased flexibility in APM and xPM projects is the need for increased adaptability. Companies that are undergoing a change of approach that recognizes the need to support not just TPM projects but also APM projects are faced with a significant and different cultural and business change. For one thing, the business rules and rules of the project engagement will radically change. Expect resistance.

Flexibility here refers to the project management process. If you are using a one-size-fits-all approach, you have no flexibility. The process is the process is the process. This is not a very comforting situation if the process gets in the way of common-sense behaviors and compromises your ability to deliver value to your client. Wouldn’t you rather be following a strategy that allows you to adapt to the changing situations rather than being bound to one that just gets in the way?

TPM projects generally follow a fixed methodology. The plan is developed along with a schedule of deliverables and other milestone events. A formal change management process is part of the game plan. Progress against the planned schedule is tracked, and corrective actions are put in place to restore control over schedule and budget. A nice neat package isn’t it? All is well until the process gets in the way of product development. For example, if the business situation and priorities change and result in a flurry of scope change requests to accommodate the new business climate, an inordinate amount of time will then be spent processing change requests and re-planning schedules at the expense of value-added work. The schedule slips beyond the point of recovery. The project plan, having changed several times, has become a contrived mess. Whatever integrity there was in the initial plan and schedule is now lost among the many changes.

APM is altogether different. Remember, APM, like all project management, is really nothing more than organized common sense. So when the process you are using gets in the way, you adapt. The process is changed in order to maintain focus on doing what makes sense to protect the creation of business value. Unlike TPM processes, APM processes expect and embrace change as a way to find a better solution and as a way to maximize business value within time and budget constraints. That means choosing and continually changing the PMLC model to increase the business value that will result from the project. Realize that to some extent scope is a variable in the complex project management world.

xPM and MPx projects are even more dependent upon flexible approaches. Learning and discovery take place throughout the project and the team and client must adjust on a moment’s notice as to how they are approaching the project. Risk of failure is very high and how you use available resources must be protected by the project management process.

Adaptability

The less certain you are of project requirements, functionality, and features, the more need you will have to be adaptable with respect to process and procedure. Adaptability is directly related to the extent to which the organization empowers your team to act. The ability of your team to adapt increases as empowerment becomes more pervasive. To enable your team members to be productive, senior managers need to stay out of their way as much as possible. One way to stay out of their way is to clearly define and agree with them about what they are to do and by when, but be careful not to overstep your role as an effective project manager by telling your team members how to complete their assignments. Don’t impose processes and procedures that stifle team and individual creativity! This would be the death knell of any complex project. Instead, create an environment that encourages creativity. Don’t encumber the team members with the need to get sign-offs that have nothing to do with delivering business value. Pick your project manager and team members carefully and trust them to act in the best interest of the client.

Risk vs. the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

Project risk increases as the project falls in the TPM, APM, xPM, and MPx categories. In TPM, you clearly know the goal and the solution and can build a definitive plan for getting there. Templates that have had the test of time are often used and any risks associated with their use are minimal. The exposure to risks associated with product failure will be low. The focus can then shift to process failure. A list of candidate risk drivers would have been compiled over past similar projects. Their likelihood, impact, and the appropriate mitigation strategies will be known and documented. Like a good athlete, you will have anticipated what might happen and know how to act if it does.

As the project takes on the characteristics of APM, two forces come into play. First, the PMLC model becomes more flexible and lighter. The process burden lessens as more attention is placed on delivering business value than on conformance to a plan. At the same time, project risk increases. Risk increases in relation to the extent to which the solution is not known. On balance, that means more effort should be placed on risk management as the project moves through APM and looks more like an xPM project. There will be less experience with these risks because they are specific to the product being developed. In xPM and MPx projects, risk is the highest because you are in an R & D environment. Process risk is almost nonexistent because the ultimate in flexibility has been reached in this quadrant but product risk is extremely high. There will be numerous product failures because of the highly speculative nature of xPM and MPx projects, but that is okay. Those failures are expected to occur. Each product failure gets you that much closer to a feasible solution, if such a solution can be found within the operative time and budget constraints. At worst, those failures eliminate one or more paths of investigation and so narrow the range of possible solutions for future projects.

Team Cohesiveness versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

In TPM, the successful team doesn’t really have to be a team at all. You assemble a group of specialists and assign each to their respective tasks at the appropriate times. Period. Their physical location is not important. They can be geographically dispersed and still be successful. The plan is sacred and the plan will guide the team through their tasks. It will tell them what they need to do, when they need to do it, and how they will know they have finished each task. So the TPM plan has to be pretty specific, clear, and complete. Each team member knows his or her own discipline and is brought to the team when needed to apply their skills and competencies to a set of specific tasks. When they have met their obligation, they often leave the team to return later if needed.

The situation quickly changes if the project is an APM, xPM, or MPx project. First of all, there is a gradual shift from a team of specialists to a team of generalists. The team becomes more self-organizing, self-sufficient, and self-directing as the project moves across the quadrants. TPM teams do not have to be co-located. Although co-location would make life a bit easier for the project manager, it is not a necessity.

It is highly recommended that APM, xPM, and MPx teams be co-located. Research has shown that co-location adds significantly to the likelihood of successful completion of these complex projects. However, often conditions render co-location unlikely despite arguments to the contrary. Not being co-located creates communication and coordination problems for the project manager. Most complex projects require a creative environment be established and having a co-located team makes that a bit easier. One of the first APM projects I managed had a team of 35 professionals scattered across 11 time zones. Thirty-five is a large APM team but it is manageable. We were still able to have daily 15-minute team meetings! Despite the communications obstacle, the project was successfully completed, but I have to admit that this project added considerably more management overhead for me than there would have been if the team was co-located.

Communications versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

The Standish Group surveys over the past decade or more have found that the lack of timely and clear people-to-people communications is the most common root cause for project failure. I am referring here to both written and verbal communications media. The following is the current prioritized list of the top 10 reasons for project failure as reported in the Standish Group CHAOS 2010 Report.

Projects fail because of:

  1. Lack of user input
  2. Incomplete requirements and specification
  3. Changing requirements and specification
  4. Lack of executive support
  5. Technology incompetence
  6. Lack of resources
  7. Unrealistic expectations
  8. Unclear objectives
  9. Unrealistic time frames
  10. New technology

The first three items on the list are related to people-to-people communications, either direct or indirect.

As a project increases in complexity and heightened uncertainty, communication requirements increase and change. When complexity and uncertainty are low, the predominant form of communications is one-way (written, for example). Status reports, change requests, meeting minutes, issues reporting, problem resolution, project plan updates, and other written reports are commonplace. Many of these are posted on the project’s website for public consumption. As uncertainty and complexity increase, one-way communication has to give way to two-way communication, so written communications give way to meetings and other forums for verbal communication. Distributed team structures give way to co-located team structures to support the change in communications modes. The burden of plan-driven approaches is lightened, and the communications requirements of value-driven approaches take over.

Value-driven communications approaches are the derivatives of meaningful client involvement where discussions generate status updates and plans going forward. Because projects that are high in complexity and uncertainty depend on frequent change, there is a low tolerance of written communications. In these project situations, the preparation, distribution, reading, and responding to written communications is viewed as a heavy burden and just another example of non-value-added work. It is more for historical record-keeping than it is for action items. It is to be avoided, and the energy should be spent on value-added work.

Client Involvement versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

Consider for a moment a project where you were very certain of the goal and the solution. You would be willing to bet your first-born that you had nailed requirements and that they would not change. (Yes, that type of project may just be a pipe dream, but give me the benefit of the doubt for just a moment.) For such a project, you might ask: “Why do I need to have my client involved except for the ceremonial sign-offs at milestone events?” This is a fair question, and ideally you wouldn’t need the client’s involvement. How about a project at the other extreme, where the goal is very elusive or a pipe dream and no solution would seem to be in sight? In such cases, the complete involvement of the client, as a team member perhaps, but at least as a subject matter expert (SME) would be indispensable. What I have been describing here are the extreme cases in the project landscape.

TPM projects are plan-driven and team-driven projects. Client involvement is usually limited to answering clarification questions as they arise and giving sign-offs and approvals at the appropriate stages of the project life cycle. It would be accurate to say that client involvement in TPM projects is reactive and passive. But all that changes as you move into APM projects. Clients must now take a more active role in APM projects than was their role in TPM projects. For xPM projects, meaningful client involvement is essential. In fact, the client should take on a proactive role. The project goes nowhere without that level of commitment from the client.

Finding the solution to a project goal is not an individual effort. In TPM, the project team under the leadership of the project manager is charged with implementing a known solution. In some cases, the client will be passively involved, but for the most part, it is the team that will implement the known solution. The willingness of clients to even get passively involved will depend on how you have dealt with them during project execution. They are clearly in a followership role. If you bothered to include them in the planning of the project, they may have some sympathy and help you out. But don’t count on it. Beginning with APM and extending through xPM there is more and more reliance on meaningful client involvement. Clients move from a followership role to a collaborative role and even to a leadership role. In your effort to maintain client-focus and deliver business value, you are dealing with a business problem, not a technology problem. You have to find a business solution. Who is better equipped to help than clients? After all, you are dealing with their part of the business. Shouldn’t they be the best source of help and partnership in finding the solution? You must do whatever it takes to leverage that expertise and insight. Client involvement is so critical that without it you have no chance of being successful with complex projects.

Achieving and sustaining meaningful client involvement can be a daunting task for at least the three reasons cited in the following subsections.

The Client’s Comfort Zone

Ever since the 1950s, project managers have trained clients to take a passive role. We trained them well, and now we have to retrain them. In many instances, their role was more ceremonial than formal. They didn’t understand what they were approving but had no recourse but to sign. The sign-off at milestone events was often a formality because the client didn’t understand the techie-talk, was afraid not to sign-off because of the threat of further delays, and didn’t know enough about development to know what kinds of questions to ask, when to ask them, and when to push back. Now we are asking them to step into a new role and become meaningfully engaged throughout the project life cycle. Many are not poised to take up that responsibility. That responsibility is ratcheted up a notch as the project moves further into the APM quadrant toward the xPM and MPx quadrants, where less is known about the situation. The project team is faced with a critical success factor of gaining meaningful client involvement throughout the PMLC. In an xPM project, the client’s involvement is even more proactive and engaging. xPM projects require that the client take a co-leadership role with the project manager to keep the project moving forward and adjusted in the direction of increasing business value.

At the same time, the clients’ comfort zone is growing. They have become smarter. It is not unusual to find clients who are now more willing to get technically involved. They go to conferences where presentations often include technical aspects. They now know how to push back. They know what it takes to build solutions. They’ve built some themselves using spreadsheet packages and other applications tools. That has two sides. These types of clients can be supportive, or they can be obstacles to progress.

Here is my suggestion to attain and sustain meaningful client involvement. Training, training, and more training. I have delivered client (and yes, team) training in preparation for a project, and I have also delivered it concurrently with project execution. Both can be effective.

Ownership by the Client

Establishing ownership by the client of APM and xPM projects’ product and process is critical. I often ensure there is that ownership by organizing the project team around co-managers—one from the developer side and one from the client side. These two individuals are equally responsible for the success and failure of the project. That places a vested interest squarely on the shoulders of the client co-manager. In my experience the co-manager approach has been the only consistently successful approach for establishing and sustaining meaningful client involvement that I know of.

This sounds really good on paper, but it is not easily done. I can hear my clients saying, “This is a technology project and I don’t know anything about technology. How can I act in a managerial capacity?” The answer is simple, and it goes something like this: “True, you don’t have a grasp of the technology involved, but that is a minor point. Your real value to this endeavor is to keep the business focus constantly in front of the team. You can bring that dimension to the team far better than any of the technical people on the team. You will be an indispensable partner in every decision situation faced in this project.” This ownership is so important that I have even postponed starting client engagements because clients can’t send a qualified spokesperson to the planning meeting. When they do, you have to be careful that they don’t send you a weak representative who just isn’t busy at the time or who doesn’t really understand the business context of the project. Maybe there was a reason that person wasn’t busy.

Client Sign-Off

This has often been the most anxiety-filled task that you will ever ask of your clients. Some clients think that they are signing their lives away when they approve a document or a deliverable. You are going to have to dispel that perception. We all know that we live in a world of constant change, high speed, and high risk. Given that, how could anyone reasonably expect that what works today will work tomorrow? Today’s needs may not even come up on the radar screen next week. On no project, no matter how certain you are that you have nailed the RBS, can you expect the RBS to remain static for the length of the project. It simply won’t happen. That means you had better anticipate change as a way of life in most PMLC models.

Client sign-off becomes a non-issue in the co-manager approach. The client is fully aware of the current project status and, in fact, has participated in the decisions leading to that status. Their anxieties and fears will have been mitigated.

Specification versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

What does this mean? Simply put, it advises you that the choice of PMLC model should be based on an understanding of the confidence you have that the specifications have been completely and clearly defined and documented and that scope change requests will not arise from any shortcomings in the specifications documents. As specification uncertainty increases, your best choices lie first in the Iterative models that populate the APM quadrant and then in the Adaptive models that populate the APM quadrant—those that allow the solution to become more specific and complete as the project commences or that allow you to discover the solution as the project commences. If you have very little confidence that you have clearly and completely documented the specifications, then your PMLC model takes on the flavor of the research and development models that populate the xPM and MPx quadrants.

The PMLC models that require a high level of specification certainty (Linear and Incremental) tend to be change-intolerant. Consider the situation where a significant change request comes early in the project life cycle. That could render much of the planning work obsolete. A large part of it will have to be done over. That contributes to the non-value-added work time of the PMLC model you have chosen. If changes like that are to be expected, a PMLC model that is more tolerant and supportive of change should have been chosen. The non-value-added work could have been greatly diminished or removed altogether. Lean agile models address the issue of non-value added work. The Adaptive Project Framework (APF) is one example of a lean agile model (see Chapters 10 and 12).

If you look inside the specifications document, there is more detailed information that might help you decide on the best PMLC model. Specifications are composed of the RBS and WBS. These are often displayed in a hierarchical structure that was introduced in Chapter 4 and is reproduced here as Figure 9-2.

At the highest level are the requirements. These form a necessary and sufficient set for meeting the expected business value. The illustrated hierarchy is the complete hierarchy that even the most complex and comprehensive requirement might need in order to be clearly understood. In most cases only some subset of the hierarchy will be needed for a requirement. Remember that your objective in defining this hierarchy is so that the client and the project team will clearly understand what the requirement entails. Use your common sense in deciding what that decomposition should look like. There are no objective criteria for deciding on that decomposition.

Figure 9-2: The Requirements Breakdown Structure

Uncertainty at the requirements level has more impact on your choice of PMLC model than does uncertainty at the functionality level, which has more impact than uncertainty at the feature level. And despite all of your efforts to the contrary, you can still have changes on any one of these three fronts that could have significant impact on your decisions and best efforts. That’s just some of the surprises you will encounter in your daily life as a project manager.

Gauging the integrity of the specification document will always be a subjective assessment. Based on that subjective assessment, you choose a PMLC model, make the appropriate adaptations, and hope you made a good decision. Time will tell.

Change versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

As complexity increases, so does the need to receive and process change requests. A plan-driven project management approach is not designed to effectively respond to change. Change upsets the order of things as some of the project plan is rendered obsolete and must be redone. Resource schedules are compromised and may have to be renegotiated at some cost. The more that change has to be dealt with, the more time is spent processing and evaluating those changes. That time is forever lost to the project. It should have been spent on value-added work. Instead it was spent processing change requests.

You spent so much time developing your project plan for your TPM project that the last thing you want is to have to change it. But that is the reality in TPM projects. Scope change always seems to add more work. Did you ever receive a scope change request from your client that asked you to take something out? Not too likely. The reality is that the client discovers something else they should have asked for in the solution. They didn’t realize or know that at the beginning of the project. That leads to more work, not less. The decision to use TPM models is clear. Use TPM models when specifications are as stable as can be. The architects of the APM and xPM models knew how stability of specifications affected choice of the PMLC model and so designed approaches that expected change and were ready to accommodate it. Invoking a just-in-time planning model is one such technique. You’ll see how WBS stability and completeness impacts PMLC model choice in more detail in Chapters 10, 11, and 12.

The less you know about requirements, functionality, and features, the more you have to expect change. In TPM, you assume that you and the client know everything there is to know about requirements, functionality, and features for this project as can be known. You assume that the RBS and WBS are complete. The assumption then is that there will be little or no internal forces for change during the development project. Externally, however, that is not the case. Actions of competitors, market forces, and technological advances may cause change, but that is true for every project and can only be expected. The best the enterprise can do is maintain a position of flexibility in the face of such unpredictable but certain events.

APM is a different story altogether. Any change in the position of the project in this quadrant will come about through the normal learning process that takes place in any project. When the client has the opportunity to examine and experiment with a partial solution, they will invariably come back to the developers with suggestions for other requirements, functionality, and features that should be part of the solution. These suggestions can be put into one of two categories: either they are wants or they are needs (see Chapter 4). For more details on distinguishing the difference between wants and needs see The New Rational Manager by Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe (Kepner-Tregoe Publishers, 1997).

Wants may be little more than the result of a steak appetite on a baloney budget. It is up to the project manager to help clients defend their wants as true needs and hence build the business case for integrating the changes into the solution. If clients fail to do that, their suggestions should be relegated to a wish list. Wish lists are seldom revisited. On the other hand, if a client demonstrates the true value of what they want, it can be transferred to a true need. It is up to the project manager to accommodate that new requirement, functionality, or feature into the solution set. It may have to be prioritized in the list of all needs not yet integrated into the solution. The COS session is the best place to make these decisions. Often you should back this up with a Root Cause Analysis (see Chapter 13). In xPM projects, there is yet a further reliance on change to affect a good business-valued product. In fact, xPM projects require change in order to have any chance at finding a successful solution. Change is the only vehicle that will lead to a solution.

The bottom line here is that as the project type moves across the landscape, the scope change management process changes as well.

Business Value versus the Complexity/Uncertainty Domain

This domain would seem to be trivial. After all, aren’t all projects designed to deliver business value? These projects were commissioned based on the business value they would return to the enterprise. This is all true. However, TPM projects focus on meeting the plan-driven parameters: time, cost, and scope. When the project was originally proposed, the business climate was such that the proposed solution was the best that could be had. In a static world, that condition would hold. Unfortunately the business world is not static, and the needs of the client aren’t either. The bottom line is this: what will deliver business value is a moving target. TPM PMLC models aren’t equipped with the right stuff to assure the delivery of business value. TPM PMLC models deliver to specification within cost and time constraints. In the final analysis, that has nothing to do with delivering business value. That can only happen through APM, xPM, and MPx models.

It follows then that TPM projects potentially deliver the least business value and that business value increases as you move from TPM to APM to xPM. At the same time, risk also increases, which means that higher-valued projects are expected in order to be commissionable as you move across the quadrants. Remember that the expected business value of a project is the product of (1 – risk) and value. Here, risk is expressed as the probability of failure, and the probability of success is therefore (1 – risk). So if you were able to repeat this project a number of times, the average business value you would realize is the product of (1 – risk) and value.

What does this mean? Simply put, whatever PMLC model you adopt for the project, it must be one that allows redirection as business conditions change. The more uncertainty that is present in the development project, the more need there is to be able to redirect the project to take advantage of changing conditions and opportunities.

As projects move through TPM, APM, and xPM, they become more client-facing. The focus changes from conformance to plan to delivery of business value. The TPM models focus on conformance to plan. If they also happen to deliver maximum business value, it would be more the result of the inevitable statistical probability that sometimes things just turn out well than the result of a clairvoyant project plan. The focus on delivery of business value is apparent and up-front in all of the APM and xPM project management approaches. It is designed into their PMLC models.

Putting It All Together

The definition of the project landscape is mine and mine alone. I like simplicity and intuitiveness, and my definition provides exactly that. It is also a definition that encompasses every project that ever existed and ever will exist, so there is no reason to ever change it! That means it can be used as a foundation for all further discussion about PMLC models. There is a certain academic soundness and theoretical base to that approach. In fact, it is the beginnings of a project management discipline. At the same time, the definition has a very simple and practical application. That base will be the foundation on which all best-fit project management approach decisions can be made. As you will see in the chapters that follow, I will be able to exploit that base from both a conceptual and applications perspective.

Using the project landscape as the foundation for managing projects, I have defined the remaining four PMLC models at the Process Group level of detail. The definitions give a clear and intuitive picture of how project management approaches can vary as the degree of uncertainty changes. Within each PMLC model, there will be a number of specific instantiations of the model. These will be discussed in Chapters 10, 11, and 12.

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