St Thomas Aquinas’s Gantt chart

I was sitting on the bus last night reading an excellent book on theoretical physics. One of the threads of the book is the basic question of the purpose of physics – is it to describe reality or just to be a logically consistent hermetic exercise in scholasticism?

As I looked out the window as we went ove Battersea Bridge I found myself thinking about how the same question applies in other worlds, not least in IT project management.

A quick search on Amazon reveals 8,794 books on IT project management, a subset of the 40,853 project management books available in total. And amongst these books are familiar friends – PRINCE, ISEB …

But are project management processes a reflection of reality or are they just an exercise in crafting a set of logically consistent processes which end up only weakly engaging with reality? 

In my world one of our great weaknesses is to assume that because we have a problem documented we have a problem solved. We have a Gantt chart therefore we have a plan.

This is not about not following processes, it’s not about ignoring best practice or common causes of project failure, it’s a deeper question about how do we ensure that our processes accurately reflect reality, not waste time and effort trying to make it work the other way round.

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2 thoughts on “St Thomas Aquinas’s Gantt chart

  1. You bring up a very interesting topic on Project Management. It would be nice to expand on it (if you can). I think most Project Managers are realistic, but the problem is that there are lots of unknown, and the person has to have as much risk contingency as s/he can. Having said that, there’s always the pressure of the client, the stakeholders, etc… In an ideal world, what you’re saying can definitely work, but sadly, it’s not.

  2. Thanks, my thoughts are still evolving but having just spoken to a group of people heavily involved in live major project delivery issues I find increasing resonance in the point about “reality”.

    Part of me wonders if our processes don’t just help define the management of a project as “the other”? We start in the real world with a real demand – “I want hot and sour tomato & chicken curry” and then we immediately create PIDS, project plans, project boards, role definitions, risk registers, product definitions …

    Each of these actions, though logically consistent and intended to get us closer to the end goal, runs the risk of distancing the process from reality.

    I have no solutions yet but I intend to look at my own programme/project portfolio and consider how to embed them in the real.

    I will return to this one.

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