I’d like to pose the question above in the title. . . should we strike the word “project” from our collective agile vocabulary? Before we rush to any hasty decisions, let’s take a look at the facts:
The word project, properly defined by Webster’s Dictionary, means:
- A specific plan or design
- A planned undertaking: as
- a definitely formulated piece of research
- a large usually government-supported undertaking
- a task or problem engaged in usually by a group of students to supplement and apply classroom studies
Let’s also take a look at the historical definers of such project things, PMI, and see what they say:
It’s a temporary group activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result.
A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.
And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.
As agilists, we are focused on many changes to standard culture – minimizing variables, improving efficiency, reducing lead time (time between when a request or bug or whatever is identified/logged and when the enhancement/fix is provided back to the customer base), creating more consistent and accelerating work, enhancing work life, etc. Less and less are customers focused on spending “x” dollars no matter what; they are concerned with getting the most valuable product. Most temporary goals are seen as “drivers” that direct features continually, not simplistic start/stop initiatives.
Why would we, then, maintain terms and titles and concepts that reflect a rapidly diminishing thought process? I understand that we have maintained certain terminology because it is common and allows non-agile folks to understand what we do, but maybe it is time to educate those on what we do rather than perpetuate concepts that can be in contrast to our efforts. In an age of correctness, there is a need to call something what it is. We are not agile project managers, we do not run projects, we are not the top dog on the project team; we help teams either do better and more efficient work or we help organizations identify, organize and prioritize their business needs in a way that teams can consume them rapidly and consistently. But again, this is just a thought!