Success in project management is not a matter of chance

Resolving complex issues in project management has been, and still is, the great challenge facing many team leaders, project managers, area supervisors, and individuals at any other level of management or coordination in a firm. Deciding which methodology to follow is one of the major steps that will have an influence on the success of the undertaking.

A wide range of working methods are used: from classic lines of work (PMP, Prince2), agile strategies (Scrum or Kanban), best practices in the field of IT (ITIL), or processes designed to handle a broader spectrum, such as DevOps. They have all arisen from attempts to resolve specific problems and have been tried and tested in different environments. But is there one most suited to dealing with the challenges we face when planning a project?

What Chess Teach us

We are, in fact, facing a multifarious problem. The differential components that render each situation or project unique call for a prior analysis that enables us to adopt a singular approach to ensure its success. Even past successes do not always guarantee the same outcomes, as circumstances change from one project to another.

Take chess for example. In order to win a game, it is not enough to know how each piece moves in isolation, but instead to be able to approach the contest from a holistic perspective that enables us to analyse the situation in which we find ourselves and make decisions, adopting the moves that will enable us to win the game with the pieces at our disposal. This means the same opening may prompt different decisions depending on the resources we have available to us. In the case of our own project, this would depend on factors such as team experience, customers’ involvement in the project, their understanding of the problem to be resolved, and the conditions under which the project is to be undertaken.

My personal experience has shown that there is no single method that is wholly applicable in all circumstances. With a view to achieving excellence on a systematic basis it is important, as in a game of chess, to anticipate the next moves. In our case, we keep one step ahead of the moments of major uncertainty that will arise during the project. Those moments will require decisions to be made that may not seem logical and which, however, just as in a game of chess, may enable you to win. Being capable of predicting when and why a team will encounter difficulties in carrying out a specific task helps to inform the right combination of methods for achieving the best outcome in the shortest possible time.

master Emanuel Lasker said “In Chess, as it is played by masters, chance is practically eliminated”.

Compiling Book Moves

Wouldn’t it be great to know and have practised the moves like a chess grandmaster? In our case, this would involve knowing beforehand which methods are compatible and making a mix of them to exploit all their advantages at any given moment. As software engineers, we are used to understanding a problem and considering different operating scenarios depending on the user’s profile, the process, or the situation. Our book moves in project management would involve decisions upon the methods we will be using to deal with a project when we are familiar not only with the customer, their expectations and their approach to the project, but also other considerations, such as the team at our disposal, the cultural diversity of the people involved, and even the different languages they use to communicate.

Yet does this really apply to the day-to-day work of an organisation that is as agile as our own? Our reference framework is the Scrum method, although we do not apply it in an orthodox manner, but instead we merge concepts of design thinking and even some aspects taken from non-agile working methods. We do not have a single way of working, so when we are faced with a new challenge, we analyse the best way of tackling it, and we are capable of doing so innovatively because our background has taught us to adapt. This means our teams work in an environment that fosters creativity in controlled settings that permit achieving the necessary acceleration for reducing response times, while at the same time providing the highest standards of quality.

Our expertise is informed by practice and the belief that only thanks to collective acceleration and the singularization of projects will we be able to achieve excellence in everything we do. We believe that a person is not born a chess champion, but instead becomes one through practice. As the chess master Emanuel Lasker said “In Chess, as it is played by masters, chance is practically eliminated”.

Asier Ortiz
CTO
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