Project Management

The Genesis of Extreme Projects

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at

It’s one thing to be outmoded. It’s quite another to not even realize it. That was me. Up until 1996 I had been a proponent of traditional project management. I saw this discipline as the salvation for any project you could conceive of, from constructing a factory building to launching an e-business.

At the time, I was working for a project management training and consulting firm. I began to find myself confronted with projects that were escalating in technical complexity and nearly impossible to keep under control. These ventures featured high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Compounding these dynamics, project teams were geographically dispersed, sometimes across time zones, to say nothing of the difficulties caused cultural differences in work practices and communications protocols. Moreover, team members were spread so thin they rarely had loyalty to any one project. They just wanted to get by.

On top of this, many IT projects were also organizationally complex, cutting across departmental lines. I remember one sales process re-engineering project that had a direct impact on 500-plus stakeholders. Some would be out of a job as a result of the new streamlined way of doing business. Others would be better off. These politically charged projects were rife with conflict and turf battles. Moreover, and this was typical, there was no evident project …

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