Project management practices have been used since human beings first started to work together to achieve greater outcomes than they could have accomplished as individuals. Modern practice of the profession started in the 1950’s so it is natural that certain practices, tools and nomenclature will be discarded as the profession evolves.
Unfortunately, some anachronistic project management terms still linger despite overwhelming evidence that their time has passed.
Waterfall & Traditional
Waterfalls usually provide a one-way journey for those unlucky enough to take a ride over them. Even the most deterministic project lifecycle will provide some instances (no matter how small) of iterating back.
Traditional is a subjective term. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was signed in 2001. Before its arrival launched agile into the mainstream, adaptive lifecycles had been used for many years. “Traditional” could be equally applied to deterministic and adaptive lifecycles when we consider that many new project managers were born around Y2K!
Resources (when referring to people)
The PMBOK’s Project Resource Management knowledge area might cover the management of both people and materials but calling our team members “resources” encourages poor management practices by equating them to commodities and furthers the myth and resulting risks of fungibility. There are many positive ways to reference the people on our teams including their names(!), “talent”, “contributors” and “performers” so there’s no reason to use such a divisive term.
I applaud the efforts of the PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition volunteer team in adding the Tailoring Considerations section to each knowledge area chapter but this is just the first step in a long journey of providing guidance for adapting project management practices and tools to the context of a specific project and organizational culture. Certain other professions might have standard procedures which are appropriate in all circumstances (e.g. turn the power off before working on an electrical circuit) but while the principles of project management are universally applicable, specific practices or tools are not.
The practice of trepanation was used in ancient times as a cure for what they saw as evil spirits possessing sick people’s heads. However, nowadays if a doctor was to approach your head with a drill, in all except the most extreme circumstances, you would be forgiven for running away! If we wish to demonstrate the evolution of the project management profession, similar Spring cleaning is needed with our lexicon.
By Kiron Bondale, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, PMI-RMP, CDAP, CDAI
World Class Productivity (WCP) Inc.