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A Project Is a Wave in the Product Structure

A really great project is like a beautiful wrap on a Christmas gift. It sits under the tree, incubating excitement, waiting to be opened. But once Christmas morning comes, the gift is ripped open, the product inside is celebrated, and the gift wrap is thrown away. If the project is the gift wrap in this equation, should organizations base their operations around projects? In a post at his blog, the IT Skeptic Rob England says no.

Product Apotheosis

England thinks it is time to integrate projects into the structure of products:

The #noprojects hashtag is as silly as the #noOps or #noestimates hashtags. “Product not project” doesn’t mean we don’t have projects anymore. Projects still exist – they are just no longer the primary building component of the organisation. Projects are a transitory wave which passes through the product structure. A project is a surge in work, to deliver a defined outcome, a step-change in a product or products. So therefore it is a surge in the number of people in the team(s) and in the velocity of the team(s) as we deliver the wave of change required by the project.

He also says project managers should no longer “stride like gods.” (Several of you are probably laughing right now, wondering when you ever felt like a god as a project manager.) What he means is that he believes project managers should be less directly responsible for shaping products and priorities, and instead they should be reemphasizing their dedication to managing administrative tasks (timeline, budgets, etc.) and supporting product teams.

In turn, England likes the idea of dedicated standing teams that grow and grow as a unit as time goes on, as opposed to project teams where they grow and grow and then disband. Standing teams will likely be most effective if they are small (five-ish base, permanent members) and agile. One of the results of such changes will be much tighter integration of IT with the business. IT will sell “capacity to build user stories” rather than sell project outcomes. IT will focus on business projects in general, as opposed to “IT projects,” though IT projects will continue to exist in the form of typical software upgrades.

What do you make of these ideas? Strongly for, or strongly against? You can view the original post and some additional ideas here: http://www.itskeptic.org/content/project-wave-product-structure

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