Published here February 2021


Musings Index

Max's Musings circa 12/26/20
On Asset Delivery Methodology Spectrum

The other day, (This is a good starting gambit, a bit like my father always used to start his little boy's bedtime story with "Once upon a time ...") So, yes, the other day I was reading through some of my daily emails and links to LinkedIn, Christmas is a good time to do these things. Anyway, I came across a particular on-line discussion. First it was about the consistent level of annual project failures as measured in X% - where X is unacceptable large. Then it was about how many decades old is project management anyway, considering it should have got progressively better over the years.

Inevitably, the online exchanges then turned to something like: "Well, it's all according to what methodology you use. If you don't use the right methodology (read 'Agile') you're almost bound to fail!" And this is where my long-standing friend, Dr. Paul Giammalvo (Dr. PDG), stepped in and provided his Asset Delivery Methodology Spectrum (ADMS). Here it is repeated below.

ADMS diagram originally published in PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue III - April 2019, titled: "Agile" is NOT a subset of Project Management.[1]   [click to enlarge]

It was at this point I said to my self "Wait a sec" (This is always a good way to try and introduce a little independent thought). How many readers, especially new ones that we would like to see joining the industry, really understand what we are talking about? For that matter, how many of the older ones also! Or indeed, anyone at all considering that nowhere, I repeat nowhere are any of the essential key words defined — even in a majority of academic papers.

Some examples of these most important undefined key words are: agile, business case, cost, project and projectized, scope, time, and waterfall. Indeed, most of these words tend to mean different things in different contexts, so they should obviously be defined, especially in academic treatise. And none of that even goes to defining the central argument, namely: What is intended by the terms "success" and "failure" even assuming that those intentions are relevant!

And what about Dr. PDG's ADMS chart itself? Can anyone really visualize what it is trying to say? Well, in case not, here is a brief analogy.

First, note that Dr. PDG's ADMS chart is made up of five progressive parts. At this point just let's label them from 1 to 5, i.e., from very high definition of objectives to very low. Second, let's accept that "projects" are like jungles for their very complexity and entanglements, and let's settle for "forests" instead of jungles, natural of course. Now, let's see how people view and respond to five parts of a forest as follows:

Group 1 are those who see the whole forest as far too complicated, time consuming to enter and even far too risky and frightening. In short, don't go near it at any price because we are quite happy and comfortable where we are outside.

Group 2 are those who are just comfortable and inquisitive enough to walk round the edges of the forest, if only to see how dense it is in there.

Group 3 are those who are all for going full belt through the forest, but only by keeping strictly to the main, well-established trails.

Group 4 are those who are little more adventurous and like to explore some of the lesser trails, so long as they are visible and not too overgrown.

Group 5, finally, are those who deliberately try to ignore the dangers of the forest but delight in their challenges. This they do by darting every which way until they either get lost and need rescuing, or happily find their way to the perimeter of the forest and declare a successful mission.

Now back to Dr. PDG's chart, as he has said in his email to me more recently: "The key is in being willing to step back and look at the various ASSET DELIVERY OPTIONS that any owner organization can choose from. That puts the whole debate about 'Waterfall' vs. 'Agile' vs. 'Hybrid' into a much better perspective rather than trying to debate the never-ending question of which one is best?"

Now you can see it is not a question of which is the right approach, but rather whether the user (project owner) wishes to succeed by design or by accident. In any case, please, please, before you start, make up your mind what constitutes "success" in the first place. And what ever you do, do not base it purely on either schedule and/or cost because these are both based on either arbitrary decisions or, at best, very optimistic and incomplete estimates.

After all, is it not the value of the product (asset) produced that is the most important measure?

1. See
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