Is Your Project Plan-Driven or Change-Driven?

Sometimes our project success is directly related to the quality of planning that gets done. When you define your project approach, you must decide where it falls across the spectrum of plan-driven approaches and change-driven approaches.  Plan-driven project approaches focus on ensuring that the solution is fully defined before its implementation begins.  Change-driven project approaches are indicative of a more agile and iterative effort to define and implement the resulting solution.  Hybrid project approaches combine aspects of both types, and may require additional tailoring and scaling of your overall project approach to combine them well.

Most organizational environments and their management teams are likely to be more comfortable with one approach over the other. Do you know what your organization’s “comfort zone” lies? Another way I like to think of plan-driven versus change-driven project approaches is to call them “traditional” versus “agile” development methodologies. Once an Information Technology (IT) project manager, always an IT project manager, I guess.

Plan-driven project approaches target minimizing up-front uncertainty and maximizing control. Another name for uncertainty is risk. This is more traditional styles of development, such as the waterfall model of software development or what you find in straightforward business process re-engineering initiatives.  The biggest issue with plan-driven approaches is whether or not the solution requirements can actually be well-defined prior to commencing the overall solution delivery efforts.  In effect, plan-driven approaches use structure to control project risk.

Change-driven project approaches target rapid delivery of business value.  In order to achieve that goal, they accept greater uncertainty (risk) relative to the overall solution delivery.   This is an exploratory approach to finding the best solution, using short iterations to incrementally develop components of the solution.  Change-driven approaches that you may be familiar with include agile development methods and many continuous process improvement projects being done in many organizations.  One key feature of change-driven approaches is that they use flexibility to control project risk.

Be careful not to confuse today’s plan-driven approaches with the traditional, linear models of the past.  Today’s plan-driven approaches are flexible and adaptable, using time-boxing, iterative development and multiple releases to help folks get the job done.

Check out Learning Tree’s 3-day Agile Project Management with SCRUM course  if you are looking for a great way to get started or fine tune your skills and approach using a change-driven project approach.

Susan Weese

PS – Have a look at our brand new, 1-day online courses – Project Management Fundamentals & Documenting Requirements for Successful Projects.

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