A philosophical anecdote begins:
There are two fish swimming in the ocean. One looks at the other and says, “The water looks pretty cloudy today.” The other fish looks back and says, “Yeah, what’s water?”
In just three sentences the anecdote reveals that familiar mindsets often create reality. Routine and creates mindset and context without it consciously occurring, and such a process prevents recognition and evolution. Relating these thoughts to project management, good project management should be a constant state of evolution as opposed to a single line of approach. By routinely questioning project management approaches, “traditional” mindsets may be upended and lead to a better and more full reality. Of course questioning can be a difficult endeavor, particularly when one is a “specialist” because hyper focus on a particular set of skills is the job, but shifting mindset offers a path to new and improved solutions that ordinarily may not have been considered.
For instance, it may be natural and routine for an engineer to work solely on detailed design-construction plans that are full and complete to avoid costly reworks. Yet working in isolation can muddy the proverbial waters of a complicated project with many moving pieces, and by simply working to fulfill a contract and avoid delays in submission, costly and time consuming changes are often required towards the end of a project. With a shift in mindset and openness to input, necessary project adjustments can be infused earlier in the process, saving time, money, and stress for all involved.
Agile Project Management
A more generalized and less specialized approach may be considered agile project management, which is often more effective and efficient for the client. Agile project management emphasizes cohesively working towards the bigger picture to refine planning and execution in a cohesive manner and embracing uncertainty in an organized way to avoid a cascade of changes and rework down the line. Agile project management requires a shift in mindset away from a narrow fulfillment of roles and responsibilities to a broader one that considers best fulfillment of a united and final goal. While it may be helpful to follow certain protocols of agile project management, it is most important to understand the overall agile mindset to reach a higher level of productivity.
Truly effective project management embraces the agile mindset to ask tough questions about the way each specialized team works in service of the team and end goal. So instead of focusing simply on agile practices and protocols, focus first on thinking like a team, which is the main point of the practices. Question assumptions of role, communicate, be flexible, and the reward will be high-level execution with less rework.