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Project Management Bricolage: The Whatever Works Way

Project Management Bricolage: The Whatever Works Way - Wellingtone PPM

By Marisa Silva, Wellingtone PPM

In a world without time to waste, we see more and more the ‘McDonaldisation of Project Management’ in our organisations: pret-a-porter methods, predictable, fast to deliver, mandatory: just follow the best practices contained in this magic book and you will be fine.

I believe project professionals put too much faith in best practices to the point that they become a meaningless buzzword. Don’t get me wrong: there is value in best practices! In fact, best practices work very well and get the job done in controlled, predictable environments (note that PRINCE2, for instance, stands for projects in controlled environments). The problem is that projects don’t always exist in that perfect scenario of predictability and it can be quite difficult to establish relationships of causality when your project is in the middle of a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. You cannot solve new problems with the same old tools if you want to achieve different results. That is why I value best-fit practices over best practices. In a VUCA world, you need emerging ideas, fresh thinking, and a strong portion of courage and creativity. Have you ever considered bricolage? Yes, I’m serious.

Project Management bricolage is all about accepting that projects exist in different shapes and forms and as such cannot all be governed and managed in the same way. Let me tell you some news: there is more underneath the stars beyond Agile and Waterfall or, if you are a bit adventurous, even beyond bi-model or hybrid models. Let us go a little crazy here: what if we mixed them all, different approaches and tool kits combined? What if our Project Managers were experienced and competent enough and we could rely on their tacit knowledge and expert judgement to decide what to use to manage their projects with the resources they have at hand?

Imagine this: a project which starts in the ‘traditional’ way, with a business case being developed, but with stand-up meetings, Kanban boards and retrospectives used in the delivery stages, some processes borrowed from Lean Six Sigma for elimination of non-added activities and streamlining, and change resulting from the project being managed with change management tools. Are you scared already?

The saying goes that if you are using a hammer, everything you see is a nail but think about it: would you trust a handyman who has been asked to do some repairs in your kitchen and turns up just carrying a hammer? The same with project management: like Lego pieces, don’t be afraid to apply some mixology to your projects, mixing and matching different tools and approaches to find the most suitable combination that can deliver the most value. It sounds so simple and logical that it can almost be confused with common sense! Yet, despite being called ‘common sense’, I’m certain you too realised that it is not that common.

Project Management bricolage requires indeed a specific culture mindset and a certain level of organisational maturity as well as the ability to be fluent in several project management languages, yet it can result in fruitful solutions and even lead to more empowered, accountable and engaged project teams.

After all, who doesn’t like to show off their bricolage skills?

Watch Video: Project Management Bricolage: The Whatever Way Works

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