Preston Smith's Corner

How can I make our project management more flexible?

December 2006 Quick Tip

When you are working in an environment subject to change, traditional project management does not work very well. Extensive upfront planning is a waste of time when plans are likely to change frequently. Instead, use rolling wave planning, where you plan the next stage well, the following one moderately, and only sketch longer-range ones. The planning rolls forward a stage when you reach the next stage.

The same goes for other traditional project management approaches. Project completion can no longer be measured in terms of deliverables delivered when these are subject to change (measure value delivered to the customer instead). Corrective action no longer means changing project activities to conform to the plan when, in fact, the plan may be the culprit (due to change). You can no longer reward project managers for following the plan when it may no longer be the best way of reaching the goal.

But the biggest change of all is in project risk management. In a traditional project, risk management that is built into the project plan works well. However, in a fast-changing project, risk management isn’t just part of the plan — it is the plan. You build the whole process around mitigating risk. You reassess risks frequently, and risk determines what you do first. If change is rampant, you are likely to have unknown risks, so-called unk-unks. They require even more vigilant treatment, as shown in an excellent new book Managing the Unknown: A New Approach to Managing High Uncertainty and Risk in Projects.

How far you stray from traditional project management depends on how much change you are encountering. But remember, if you aren’t encountering change, you aren’t innovating!

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Learn about our other services

For more information, contact:

Mary Drotar, Partner

Strategy 2 Market, Inc.


or complete this contact form

Note: As this is an archive of Preston’s New Products Dynamics Website, some off-site links may no longer exist.

Scroll to Top