Projects Where You Can't Predict an End Date

Do you have projects where you can't predict an end date? These tend to be a job search, a change project, and with a tip of the hat to Cesar Abeid, your life. I like to call these “emergent” projects.

You might prefer to call them “adaptable” projects, but to me, every project has to be adaptable. These projects are emergent. You need to plan, but not too much. You need to replan. You need to take advantage of serendipity.

My column this quarter for is Applying Agile to Emergent Projects. (Free registration required.)


3 Replies to “Projects Where You Can't Predict an End Date”

  1. Hi Johanna,

    Imagine a complexity to management style function. Then emergent phenomena would be produced by this function for an argument values spanning from highly-unstable to roulette-like. With such abstraction you don’t need “project” while your point is still valid. I’m very keen on the emergent part of your story, however, I see no reason to perpetuate project (as a term, as a style of thinking of how to deal with work etc) for software product development.
    What’s your view on that?

    1. HI Aleksander, let me see if I understand. Management can’t make up their collective mind about what to do? Is that an example of the emergence issue? (I need an example.)

      You are correct. You don’t need a project, per se, to use the emergent properties I’ve suggested. You do need to adapt to your set of circumstances.

      I like to think of these ideas: What does success mean? Given that, how little can I plan right now, and still provide myself a path towards success? Will that help me towards uncovering the emergent part? If I visualize the progress, will that help anyone? (It often helps me and helps with serendipity.) When is the right time to replan? If I make the tasks small enough, I get something done before it’s time to replan.

      I’ve taken this approach as a developer when my managers were running around like the proverbial chickens. I created very small tasks (see my inch-pebbles article, . That way I could finish work. I had a way to accomplish something on the way to success criteria, even if my managers changed their minds.

      Sometimes, the fact that I was on my way to a finished system/product helped move their decision-making. (grin.)

      Does that help? If not, please provide me a more concrete example. Thanks.

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