Project Management

It’s Not the Process, Stupid

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guide—Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

Even though Mickey Mouse is the symbol of Disney theme parks, he is not really what these locations are about. Agile methods are similarly known by their novel processes and team ceremonies, but these are largely irrelevant distractions from the true focus.

Just as Disney is all about manufacturing a positive visitor experience through detailed buildings, social engineering and extensive staff “character” training, agile methods are really about creating a social framework where effective work can be accomplished. This social framework will vary from project to project and enterprise to enterprise. It is a problem-solving exercise like building a custom galley kitchen inside a boat not a standardization exercise like force-fitting IKEA kitchen cabinets.

I realize that by using analogies to Disneyland and IKEA so early in an article, many readers may assume I have finally lost the plot; but after 20 years of practicing agile, I have had enough with rote methods implementation and attempts to scale through process training that fail. To me, agile is about process as much as Disney theme parks are about Mickey Mouse. Yes, they are an easily identifiable symbol, a shortcut to identification…but far removed from what the real focus is.

In fact, most people would be hard pressed to think of a good Mickey Mouse cartoon. However, luckily for Disney …


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