It seems like every single day I run across another new way to do project management or collaboration with a team. It seems as though everyone really wants me to be on time or communicate effectively. They really are interested in saving me time and having me use the networks I already know and love. They want to track my issues (of which, there are many) and provide all of my stakeholders with updates on my progress. They want to prioritize my life, achieve milestones and generally just get things done. They can do it in many flavors of open source, or many “enterprise” solutions. And they just keep coming on in droves.
And the only reason I can figure out why more and more companies seem to really believe that they have project management figured out better than anyone else, is that there seems to be so little satisfaction with how projects are being managed in the mainstream. In fact, it seems that these companies and services keep cropping up simply because so many people dislike the ways meetings are run, projects are tracked, or teams are managed. We have a corporate culture that continually makes fun of inept managers and people without the ability to get things done, while still keeping the structures in place that allow it to happen.
So, when someone comes up with a way of doing things differently, there really isn’t a whole lot of reason not to try. After all, anything would be better than the status quo. Whether this is in poorly run department meetings at a high school or inefficient development collaboration in a big software firm, people are simply desperate for something different. And everyone sees the potential of this market. If any single product could inspire change enough to allow different relationships to form between coworkers or change the way we go through the process of checking things off of a list, then it would truly shift the ways that we think about work.
Project management, to a large extent, is really a code word for “fixing the people on my team with technology”. It is a means to try and correct bad habits, allow for the communication that should be an expectation and allow the progress that most people just feel to be visible. I’m not saying that this isn’t noble work. In fact, I am using a number of productivity and project management tools right now (Pivotal tracker, Google Apps, Google Voice), but I believe that the problem that all of these Project management tools are trying to solve is a human one. They are all trying to make “any team” into the perfect team and “any project” into the perfect one.
I believe that there are only some teams that are truly great and only some projects worth doing. While there may be a lot of money to be made in trying to make the “average” projects into something more than that, there isn’t enough money in the world that would make me want to work on them. I want to be working with people who are truly inspired and on ideas that are filled with purpose. I don’t want to use any of these tools because of something that the people in my life lack. If I use these tools, I want my team to only be lacking time. Because sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to write the best kinds of e-mails, blog posts, tweets, Gantt charts, reports, or user stories.
I just finished Season 1 of _The Wire_. In the final ep. Lt. Daniels is talking to Det. Carver about becoming a sgt. and what that will mean. Specifically, he speaks to the fact that he will have good police, decent police and screw up police under his commande. Still, Daniels says, they will all look to Carver for how to play the game.
It is entirely a people problem. And as collaborative as any environment becomes, the tone and tenure are set by its leadership (identified or not). I've had the good fortune of working for people with great vision and leadership ability in my last two gigs. I know this because that wasn't always the case in other gigs. Sometimes, that vision is enough to carry a great team through a worthwhile project utilizing only a substandard tool.
As soon as we can write the code for visionary, inspired leadership, we're set.
One part thinking, one part writing, one part doing and one part awesome.
Pretty sure that is the recipe.