Are we too linear and compartmentalized in the way we think through project solutions? Is Agile the solution?

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I've posted this topic and question in various forums related to project management and I think it has direct bearing on Agile and for any management method, framework or process for that matter.  So I'm reposting on this blog to see what PM.com members think:

One of my favorite quotes from the late Steve Jobs is the following: 
 
“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences,” Steve Jobs is quoted as saying. “So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions.” Bill Gates, he suggested, would be “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger" 
 
While I won't recommend dropping acid and leaving everything behind and going off to an ashram, I would argue that as a project manager working in a corporate environment, I do agree the sentiment that we take a much too linear "mindset" to solving project problems. I place the work mindset here in quotes, because it isn't so much that we actually solve project problems in a linear way (in fact I'd argue that many of us are under pressure to solve things and usually end up taking a quite random approach!), but that we outline our solutions to them in a linear manner. Just look at all the frameworks and methods that have been developed out there and there will be no mistaking this linear domination. Agile is no different, they just break the linear process down to more manageable chunks and emphasize the people and working (usually software) products more than the process and documentation. 
 
Furthermore, I'd contend that this linear domination of thinking is further hampered by the compartmentalized manner in which the solutions are thought through. Much of this is the fault on an education system that is dominated by separating knowledge areas into separate and distinct categories with little to no teaching of how they all work as a synthesized whole. 
 
It is no wonder that we take this approach to the way we structure organizations and teams as well as management solutions and frameworks and accounts for the silos and governance practices that never really maps to how people interact, collaborate and come up with solutions. It also prevents us from taking a more synthesized holistic view of our project solutions. 
 
I think what is needed is a much more interdisciplinary and humanistic approach so as to create in the words of the late Steve Jobs again, a management approach "married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing." 
 
What do you think? Have your experienced similar problems and what solutions have you found?  Though Agile has come close to addressing this, I don't think it has gone far enough.  Do you agree or disagree?
What do you think? Have your experienced similar problems and what solutions have you found?  Though Agile has come close to addressing this, I don't think it has gone far enough.  Do you agree or disagree?I've posted this topic and question in various forums related to project management and I think it has direct bearing on Agile and for any management method, framework or process for that matter.  So I'm reposting on this blog to see what PM.com members think:
 
One of my favorite quotes from the late Steve Jobs is the following: 
 
“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences,” Steve Jobs is quoted as saying. “So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions.” Bill Gates, he suggested, would be “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger" 
 
While I won't recommend dropping acid and leaving everything behind and going off to an ashram, I would argue that as a project manager working in a corporate environment, I do agree the sentiment that we take a much too linear "mindset" to solving project problems. I place the work mindset here in quotes, because it isn't so much that we actually solve project problems in a linear way (in fact I'd argue that many of us are under pressure to solve things and usually end up taking a quite random approach!), but that we outline our solutions to them in a linear manner. Just look at all the frameworks and methods that have been developed out there and there will be no mistaking this linear domination. Agile is no different, they just break the linear process down to more manageable chunks and emphasize the people and working (usually software) products more than the process and documentation. 
 
Furthermore, I'd contend that this linear domination of thinking is further hampered by the compartmentalized manner in which the solutions are thought through. Much of this is the fault on an education system that is dominated by separating knowledge areas into separate and distinct categories with little to no teaching of how they all work as a synthesized whole. 
 
It is no wonder that we take this approach to the way we structure organizations and teams as well as management solutions and frameworks and accounts for the silos and governance practices that never really maps to how people interact, collaborate and come up with solutions. It also prevents us from taking a more synthesized holistic view of our project solutions. 
 
I think what is needed is a much more interdisciplinary and humanistic approach so as to create in the words of the late Steve Jobs again, a management approach "married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing." 
 
What do you think? Have your experienced similar problems and what solutions have you found?  Though Agile has come close to addressing this, I don't think it has gone far enough.  Do you agree or disagree?
Posted on: April 09, 2013 04:32 PM | Permalink

Comments

Network:0



Don, I enjoyed your post, especially with regards to your Agile comments. So many times I've heard practitioners and students state that the PMI methodology is so waterfall and Agile is just the most amazing thing ever! My argument to them is that PMI's PM methodology can work many frameworks to include Agile. I agree with you that Agile frame work is basically breaking up the PM methodology into smaller chunks of work. But hey, we have to have a concept that can be deemed "new and improved" right?

I try and teach my students and those I mentor that when learning about the PM methodology, or any other framework or methodology, that we might learn it in a linear fashion because we categorize the topics, however, life is not linear.

Network:11



Real life is messy. There is a much uncertainty. Managers crave a predictable world that does not and cannot exist in reality.

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