There is one thing which really pisses me off. I mean really. It happens when someone has a single solution which is perfect to solve the whole domain of problems. I just organically can’t stand silver bullet salesmen. This is by the way something which made me pretty suspicious when I started learning about this whole agile stuff years ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in methods. I did. The problem was I could hardly accept the “our way is the best, you lesser being” kind of attitude.
Anyway if you know me at least a bit you probably know that in basically every discussion I stand on the hill where all The Defenders of the Context stand. And I will defend it. To the last drop of blood. This means that you will never hear me saying that this or that method is universally best. By the way if you hear me saying so, don’t forget to slap me in the face because that means I betrayed The Defenders of the Context and I deserve it.
Yes, I am aware that I’m considered a strong Kanban proponent these days. I may be even considered Mr. Kanban Poland by some (yay!) And yet Kanban is not a solution for every problem and it isn’t applicable in each and every situation. Now, you have me – I’ve just admitted I don’t have panacea, sorry.
OK, I don’t try to sell you Kanban, not this time. Fine. So um… what’s the point? Well my point is that managing software projects is such a broad discipline that it takes many different approaches, attitudes, methods, tools, manifestos and movements to get the darn thing done in each possible case.
I will often promote Kanban as its beauty is that it is applicable in different situations. On the other hand Kanban with no other tools whatsoever won’t really help you. I love stories on successful implementations of Scrum, especially such down-to-earth as the one recently shared by Eric Sink. But you will also hear me saying that waterfallish approaches have their place as well, and sometimes they actually are a better choice than agile ones.
I guess I’ve proven worthy to be one of The Defenders of The Context, haven’t I? Now, where is it all going? Well, I have a bold hypothesis. I believe people from different worlds of software development and project management can learn a lot from each other. We tend to think that people still using waterfall-like approaches can learn from us agile folks. That’s true. But, and let me stress it, it works the other way around as well. And then there are other worlds which are kind of ignored in this old, beaten to death, agile versus waterfall skirmish. Earned Value, CMMI, Critical Chain and whatnot.
We can learn a ton about our methods, but also about our contexts: projects, people, organizations, clients, office politics, different stupid issues, totally strange requirements, constraints, etc. We can spend hours over beer discussing our best ideas and finding out why they might be not as good as we initially expected in a specific context. We can broaden our horizons way further than we usually do on agile conferences. Not that I have anything against agile events – they’re great. They just tend to gather only one of groups of people I’ve mentioned above.
That’s why I will support every initiative which aims at bringing people from different software development and project management worlds together in one place. I will because there aren’t many of them.
I’m strong supporter of Project Management Stack Exchange as it works exactly this way. Want to find PMPs? Here they are. Agile crowd? Sure! How about people struggling with chaotic projects? Plenty of them. Other worlds? You will get your answers as well.
I genuinely love to read questions and answers on issues which sound virtually out-of-this-world. I love because they remind me how different software projects are out there and how difficult it can be to apply our experience to solve problems in such projects. On the other hand I love to see how often common sense is sort of the best solution. Heck, if I got thousands of rep at PMSE it was basically because of promoting common sense.
On the side note: I did consider abandoning The Defenders of the Context and joining The Common Sense Proponents but the former had cooler outfits.
Another idea which fits the same scheme, although it will be interesting only for Poles, sorry, is Deadline conference. The main goal of the event is to create a common platform to exchange ideas and experience between people from different PM worlds. We have fine agile events in Poland (I even write these words during my trip to one of them – AgileByExample). We have events for PMPs and for CMMI folks, or so I hear. But we don’t try to merge those worlds in one place to learn from each other. That’s why I believe Deadline should be a must have for those project managers in Poland who want to broaden their horizons and those who care about learning.
Although I don’t know such events abroad I believe every local project management community deserves one. It does sound like an opportunity, doesn’t it?
One final thought to support this attitude. One of the most valuable thoughts I got from Kanban Leadership Retreat was a result of a chat with Jabe and Simon on applying sexy Kanban concepts in environments which are um… let’s say challenging. Where expectations of management can be to improve productivity so they can cut costs or where you fight for authority in the first place to be able to change anything at all. You’re right; it’s not really about Kanban. Yet it popped out in the context of Kanban discussion. And all that on a purely Kanban event.
Now you see what I think about – we never get away from the context and sometimes the context is kind of ugly. So the more different situations we’ve seen the better we are prepared to survive in this harsh world of building software projects.