What is traditional project management?

A while back, we published a poll on LinkedIn asking this question: “When you hear the term ‘traditional project management,’ what do you think is the meaning of ‘traditional’?”

Here is the result of the poll

It was clear from the result, although only 107 votes, that a majority believed that the standard view was that traditional project management was the same as ‘Waterfall.’ Further, many believed that tradition was bad (Strict/Bureaucratic).

Waterfall Project Management Methodology

We had expected these results and knew that was the common view. This result reminded us that we wrote an article, “Waterfall Project Management,” which is a myth and illogical. The article is here and will shed some light on the topic.

Response to Poll

We realized the common thinking was that most people believed the term “traditional” means “waterfall” in the context of Project Management Methodology. However, I do not think Agile or Waterfall are project management methodologies. Agile is about (1) Agility or (2) Agile Development. “Waterfall” is a term promoted mainly by Agile people to justify Agile.

Consequently, I was open to any challenge of these statements. So, the point to ponder is: can anyone explain to us:

What is Waterfall Project Management?

What does the project life cycle look like in a “Waterfall”?

The same question for Agile Project Management.

In the article referenced above, we answered these questions. Here, we offer a refresher and summary.

So, what is traditional project management?

We may be biased, but the way we see traditional PM is the well-established project management practices, i.e., competent project managers, not imposters PM. In other words, ‘Traditional Project Management’ was ‘Adaptive Project Management.’ Therefore, any skilled project manager in a mature project management organization understands that PM Practices and Methods are always adaptive!

In other words, traditional project management = project management!

What is Hybrid Project Management?

Agile people have been promoting Agile as THE ANSWER. They had done this for years and bombarded us with numerous certifications. Further, they advocate “Agile Transformation” as a must for organizations to do projects and all industries. However, some have started to recognize that Agile is not good enough in recent years, primarily because Agile was about development, not management. Would these people admit their shortcomings? No way! So, what was the solution?

Can we go back to traditional PM?

Sure, but that means admitting defeat and appearing as a hypocrite!

Then, what to do?

Invent Hybrid.

The Irony was that hybrid was supposedly between Waterfall and Agile, yet neither was a project management methodology. Therefore,

How do we connect two non-pm-methods, and the blend is a pm-method?

In reality, when one looks at the hybrid PM model, we will see a traditional project life cycle with an incremental or iterative development phase. That is a form of traditional project management, traditional, adaptive, competent project management.

Closing Comments

I came from a capital projects background, building petroleum and petrochemical facilities. In that world, we build industrial facilities. Therefore, we follow traditional project management with sequential/overlapping phases. However, when we approach construction, we could use many techniques to build the plant (factory, chemical plant, refinery). We could use:

Stick-built approach: simply ship everything to the construction site and build on the site.
Pre-assembly means building on-site but with some items pre-assembled in a factory and shipped as “skid-mounted units.”
Modular Construction: This could be where a large part of the “plant” is built in huge Modules and shipped to the site to be assembled like Legos.

In other words, the construction methods might change, but in all cases, we used “traditional project management” with a “traditional project life cycle.” Only the tools or techniques would change.


Finally, here is how UrukPM and CAMMP view Project Management.

A reference

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