The eXtreme Project Management™ Series: No. 1
Based on the forthcoming book:

The End of Project Management as We Know It:
A Guide to eXtreme Project Management™

by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group

eXtreme Project Management™: The What & Why

eXtreme project management is not your father's project management. It's a radical shift in thinking about projects and how to succeed.

eXtreme project management is change tolerant and customer focused. eXtreme project management requires a new worldview ... one I refer to as the Quantum Mindset. This is in stark contrast to the Newtonian or traditional project management mindset that believes stability should be the norm. In the Newtonian, mechanistic world, we believe the plan is a prediction. The motto is ready, ready, aim, aim, fire. In the Quantum world we believe that change is the norm and plans change weekly, if not daily. We plan, deplan and replan. In eXtreme project management, we fire the gun and then redirect the bullet. It's a different world.

This 12 part series is based on my forthcoming book due to hit the streets by June 2004. In this series I will review the fundamental principles, values and practices that make up the eXtreme project management model and provide you with "How to do it" information.

In this series kickoff article, I'll lay the groundwork by answering these questions:
  • Why do we need eXtreme project management?
  • What is the Quantum Mindset?
  • What is eXtreme project management?
  • How is success measured on an eXtreme project?
  • What does it take to succeed?
In the next article, I'll summarize each of the essential elements that make up the eXtreme project management model. Subsequent articles will drill down into one or more if the elements that you need to succeed. The elements are:
  • The 4 Accelerators or principles for unleashing motivation and innovation
  • The 10 Shared Values for building trust and confidence
  • The 4 Business Questions for ensuring customers receive value early and often
  • The 5 Critical Success Factors that cover the practices, tools and infrastructure
Why Do We Need eXtreme Project Management?
The world of projects has changed, but project management hasn't kept up. Traditional or waterfall project management works well under conditions of low speed, low change and high predictability. How many projects do you work on that fit that description?

The perennial need for competitive advantage and new sources of profit continue to force organizations to innovate or evaporate. Fueled by new and affordable technologies, both public and private enterprises are implementing high-stakes, high-speed projects. Innovation and time-to-market have become bedfellows, giving birth to a new breed of projects: those that are ultra-demanding. These eXtreme projects are characterized by high tech, high speed, high change, high complexity, high unpredictability and high stress. And they live under turbulent business conditions. On top of all this, eXtreme projects are organizationally complex: they typically cut across multiple departments making them politically sensitive.

"This is the kind of project management I am engaged in and the very reason I have drifted away from the Project Management Institute with their base in traditional approaches."
Sara J. McKenzie, Ph.D., MBA, Senior Program Director, Sepracor

On an eXtreme project, the desired result - what the customer really needs - is discovered throughout the life of the endeavor. To complicate matters, the path to achieve the desired result also evolves as the project team moves forward by trial and error. To succeed means to plan, deplan and replan weekly, even daily. It means that project managers have to gain and sustain commitment among conflicting political interests. They need to be agile and adaptive and provide customers with value early and often, while keeping their own lives intact during the process.

By comparison, traditional projects are cakewalks. The project goal is much more stable, the path to get there is clearer, change is kept to a minimum, the politics are less intensive and the customer may wait months before seeing anything useful. Here, planning follows the classic model of ready, ready, aim, aim, fire. In contrast, on eXtreme projects we shot the gun and then attempt to redirect the bullet. This is the reality faced by project managers, their teams and stakeholders. The rules, tools and mechanistic Newtonian practices that work on traditional projects backfire on eXtreme projects where uncertainty, improvisation and spontaneity replace predictability, command and control.

eXtreme projects require a new mindset, a new project management model
and a new breed of project manager.

What Is The Quantum Mindset?
The Quantum mindset is based on the assumption that change is the norm. The Newtonian mindset is based on the assumption that stability is the norm. Because these two worldviews represent diametrically opposite assumptions, they give rise to two different belief systems and behaviors for how projects should be managed. In a previous ProjectConnections.com article entitled Traditional Project Management vs. eXtreme Project Management: An Apples and Cumquats Comparison, I covered these two mindsets in depth. Here is a summary. As you read through the table, ask yourself which is your predominant mindset, Quantum or Newtonian?

Your Belief System
Your belief system represents your view of how the world works.

Newtonian MindsetQuantum Mindset
Stability is the normChaos is the norm
The world is linear and waterfall-likeThe world is intricate and spider web-like
A good plan is a predictionUncertainty reigns; we can't predict
Minimize changeWelcome change
Increase the feeling of security by adding rigor to the processIncrease the feeling of security by loosening up the process

Your Management Style
Your management style reflects how your belief system translates into how you do your job.

As a project manager running an eXtreme project (or if you are a project customer, sponsor or senior manager), which of the two hats do you wear most of the time?

Newtonian HatQuantum Hat
Deliver on the planned resultDiscover the desired result
Use the plan to drive resultsUse results to drive planning
Aim, Aim, fireFire. Then, redirect the bullet
Establish stronger procedures and policiesAgree on guidelines, principles and values
Keep tight control on the processKeep the process loose
Correct to the original baselineCorrect to what's possible
Be a task masterBe a relationship manager
Get it right the first timeGet it right the last time

If you are wearing a Newtonian hat and using a Newtonian compass to navigate your way through a Quantum world, you are likely to feel frustrated and under stress most of the time. You are suffering from Newtonian Neurosis. You will not be at ease. You will suffer from dis-ease because your actions are in conflict with reality. And, "Reality rules, but only 100 percent of the time," says Byron Katie, author of the book, Loving What Is (www.TheWork.com).

Now, what about your organization? If you were using the above diagnostic to assess your organization, what is its predominate mindset?

Towards peaceful co-existence
I'm not saying that there is no place for the rigor of traditional or Newtonian principles on an eXtreme project. There are parts of eXtreme projects that absolutely require rigor such as software testing procedures or the execution of a scientific experiment. Both the Newtonian and Quantum worldviews are necessary. What I am saying is that to succeed on an eXtreme project, the venture is far better served when the predominant mindset is Quantum. This means that you need to use both the left and right side of the brain, but know when to use each. eXtreme projects are primarily Quantum, right brain endeavors. You can think of it this way. Your right hand may be your dominant hand. But that doesn't mean you tie your left hand behind your back.

What Is eXtreme Project Management?
First, I'll define an eXtreme project.

An eXtreme project is a complex, high-speed, self-correcting venture in search of a desirable result under conditions of high uncertainty, high change and high stress.

An eXtreme project is like trying to change the tire on a car that is going at 70 miles an hour when the driver has been drinking heavily.

Here's the definition of eXtreme project management:

eXtreme project management is the art and science of facilitating and managing the flow of thoughts, emotions and interactions in a way that produces valued outcomes under turbulent conditions.

Bottom line: If you are a project manager, you need to think of yourself as a facilitator of disorder.

The eXtreme project model I will be covering in future articles is a change-tolerant model that provides value early and often to the project's customer. It enables project managers:
  • To meet ever changing customer requirements
  • To stay in control in the face of volatility
  • To maintain a balance of work and personal life
In other words, the eXtreme model is not merely another methodology and flowchart. It's much more. It's a holistic framework that's built on a set of principles, shared values and practices that accelerate performance on all three levels necessary for success: individual, team and organizational. The model is people centered, humanistic, reality based and business focused.

How Is Success Measured On An eXtreme Project?
Since eXtreme project management is people- and customer- centric, it will come as no surprise that success is measured as follows:
  • Customers are happy with progress and interim deliverables
  • Customers are happy with the final deliverable
  • The down stream (post project) benefits are realized
  • Team members enjoy a satisfactory quality of life throughout the project
A short cut way of saying this is that customers receive value throughout the whole life of he project and the project team feels good about the experience.

What Does It Take To Succeed?
To succeed on eXtreme projects means putting the Quantum Mindset to work through the vehicle of eXtreme project management. This boils down to gaining and sustaining commitment throughout the project life cycle, and this in turn means:
  • Unleashing motivation and innovation
  • Establishing stakeholder trust and confidence in the ability to succeed
  • Ensuring the customer receives value each step of the way
  • Maintaining control in the face of volatility
  • Taking appropriate action
The above is accomplished by applying the essential elements that comprise the eXtreme project management model. These are:
  • The 4 Accelerators
  • The 10 Shared Values
  • The 4 Business Questions
  • The 5 Critical Success Factors
In the next article in this series, I summarize the essence of each of these elements.

In the meantime, keep the beat.

eXtremely yours,


©Copyright 2000-2018 Emprend, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
About us   Site Map   View current sponsorship opportunities (PDF)
Contact us for more information or e-mail info@projectconnections.com
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy