Why Scrum Works - The underlying theory of project management
Our colleagues from the Lean Construction movement
[Lauri Koskela and Greg Howell] have extended their work
on the theory underlying project management in
The Theory of Project Management: Explanation to Novel Methods
This work is important because anecdotal evidence for
the success of an approach is insufficient to drive its
wider adoption without a theory explaining why it works
to guide the application of the approach in a new context.
This theory will be more accessible to managers than the
theory of complex adaptive systems.
They present this summary table:
Subject of theory
Classical communication theory
Scientific experimentation model
©2002 Koskela and Howell
They apply their theory to explain why Scrum works in a way
that simultaneously makes it clear why traditional approaches
to managing projects fail. The conceptual framework
underlying traditional project management thinking is
about as useful to projects as the theory of humors is for
managing medical problems. If the foundational theory is
irrelevant, all the processes, artifacts, and practices that follow
from those theories will have at best accidental value.
In particular, the assumption that a project is a
transformation of inputs into outputs and that the
first step of managing a project is to produce a WBS
by partitioning the work into independent sequential sub-tasks
each with their own inputs and outputs is seldom valid for
software efforts and so all the management activity
that follows from this is without foundation. From this perspective,
many methodologies are, in effect, WBS templates.
The authors published this paper as a follow-on to their paper
The Underlying Theory of Project Management is Obsolete
These are “academic papers” and not easy reading but their
content is worth the effort! I encourage you to go to the
original articles and understand these concepts.
Thanks to Hal Malcomber for this pointer. More from Hal at
Reforming Project Management - http://weblog.halmacomber.com
- Tom Poppendieck