I’m writing an article about defining the rhythm or cadence of your project and how to increase that, if you want to finish the project faster. I’m a little stuck — at least, if rewriting the whole thing three times is stuck, that’s where I am :-), so here’s another observation about project rhythms.
If you watched the SuperBowl Sunday night, you had a chance to see two different teams play their own games to their own rhythms. The Panthers have a long-pass, long-run, elegant rhythm to their game. The Patriots have a short-pass, short-run, nibbling-up-the-field rhythm to their game. In this instance, the Patriots won (Yeah!), but each team played their own game. It would have been easy to fall into the trap of playing the other team’s game — something that would have played to that team’s strengths. A good defense is necessary to avoid being trapped into playing the other team’s game, so that you’re not in reactive mode. But both teams managed to play their own games, leading to a fabulous football game.
The same thing can happen on your projects. If you work your project according to your own project rhythm, you (the entire project team) can create a great project — at least, as good as you can make it. But, if you attempt to work to someone else’s rhythm, your project can’t succeed.
Any project can develop a rhythm and then maintain it. The project manager (and project staff) has to look for obstacles and risks and remove them (that’s the defense part). Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. But the biggest obstacle is to not be trapped into working someone else’s project. You’re working someone else’s project when they cut staff, change the delivery date, change the focus of the project, or some other major change, and then expect you to react — and react well. In my experience, once a project has started it’s almost impossible to change the project rhythm from a top-down mandate and succeed with the project. I have seen successes where people changed practices and were able to change the project rhythm.
It doesn’t matter what kind of a lifecycle you use, although any cyclical or chunking lifecycle makes it easier to see the rhythm of your project. As long as you help the people on your project see their rhythm, your project will make progress. And if you want to increase the pace of the project, look for things that you don’t even know are obstacles and remove them.