Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anti-Patterns in Project Management

I'm on a project now working with a client on best practices for BPM projects. My focus is on the project management aspect and I have a couple co-workers focused on the software development aspects. One of the topics that came up this week was anti-patterns.

Anti-patterns can be thought of as repeating a set of actions that are anything but a best practice, or, just repeating a bad habit. It's a pretty common theme in software development. Spaghetti code is a good example, continuing to produce code that is poorly structured, confusing, or hard to follow.

But as I was thinking about it, I realized anti-patterns can apply to project management as well. I was in one organization that practiced the "death march" anti-pattern. Projects would get going, everyone would know it was going to be a disaster except senior management, and then the meltdown would happen. Then everyone gets assigned to the next project.

Another of my favorites is management by fire fighting. It's only the fires that get attention and the fire fighter working the long hours saving the day is recognized as the hero. If the organization was a little better at addressing risk, it might have a few less fires (not to mention stop rewarding people for putting the fires out if they could have prevented them in the first place).

So what anti-patterns are in your organization? Can you do something to replace them with some best practices? Are you so caught up in the day to day execution of your projects that you don't see them?


Mike said...

One of the most common anti-patterns I have noticed is what I call "management by default".

This is where there is a wilful lack of decision making on the part of usually a single manager. This continues until all options vanish until there is only one possible option.

As far as I can determine this comes in to play when the person is afraid of making the "wrong" decision, and also provides butt-covering in the form of "there were no other options, what else could I do?".

Bob Tarne said...

Mike - That's another good one. Somewhat similar is the pattern of a delayed start but no relief on the completion date and no additional resources.

Jerry MD said...

Project Management