The Four Waves of Project Management

Project management has evolved through a number of stages or waves. Table 2.1 highlights the major differences between the waves of project management.

Table 2.1. The Four Waves of Project Management
First Wave ”Initial 1950 “1970
Project Justification Projects were justified by experimentation and proof of technology.
Senior Management Role Generally unaware of major project issues ”IT were trusted as "scientists/experts."
Business Expert Role Little or no involvement in development process.
Management Focus Focus on development effort only.
Team Structure Single teams with dominant technical leader.
Planning Approach Informal and verbal planning.
Project Dynamic Generally unlimited time and budget.
Second Wave ”Engineered 1970 “current
Project Justification Projects were justified by token cost “benefit analysis ”no effective benefits realization.
Senior Management Role Involved in token steering committees ”IT were still trusted as "scientists" or "experts."
Business Expert Role Token involvement as business analysts and in testing and documentation ”Some business project managers with little support or training.
Management Focus Continuing focus on development effort only ”Formal metrics recorded on development productivity.
Team Structure Single teams with dominant technical leader and related technical experts such as database experts.
Planning Approach Macro planning based on engineering concepts such as one-off planning at front, fixed, formal specifications.
Project Dynamic Expert-driven where the IT and other specialists set budgets and technology.
Third Wave ”Dynamic 1980 “current
Project Justification Cost “benefit taken more seriously and greater awareness of benefits realization.
Senior Management Role Committed sponsor and steering committee roles with greater awareness of project management issues.
Business Expert Role Business experts involved more actively in development and project management process.
Management Focus Whole-of-life focus is adopted with development and support cycles measured.
Team Structure Virtual teams emerge with small project team supported by contractors, specialists, and business people as stakeholders.
Planning Approach Micro planning based on flexible plans with deliverables or time-boxes of 3 to 6 months.
Project Dynamic Constraint-driven by fixed deadlines, limited budgets, and resources.
Fourth Wave ”eXtreme 1990 “
Project Justification Projects are totally focused on added value and benefits realization.
Senior Management Role Project sponsors as executive project managers for total life of product or system.
Business Expert Role Business and technology teams completely integrated.
Management Focus Focus on total whole-of-life product life cycle with integrated process and product management and metrics.
Team Structure Virtual teams within virtual organizations based on partnerships and networks.
Planning Approach Organic planning using micro plans and very short development cycles (daily builds).
Project Dynamic Increasingly constraint-driven but balanced by return on investment considerations.

Clearly, this book is based on fourth-wave principles. However, in the assessment of our group , based on direct contact with more than 500 companies over the past 25 years , the majority of companies are still using second-wave project management practices.

Newtonian versus Quantum

Doug DeCarlo ( Cutter Consortium , consultants ) used a wonderful model that is identical to our distinction between second- and fourth-wave project management. He described project managers with Newtonian neurosis, which is a pathological need to bring structure to projects. He argued that extreme projects require project managers with a quantum view of the world that embraces and accepts change, chaos, uncertainty, and relaxation of control to gain control.

In addition, the majority of published material on project management is clearly second-wave with some notable exceptions such as Steve McConnell's Rapid Development (1996) and Jim McCarthy's Dynamics of Software Development (1995). We provide a guide to the other people who have joined us in developing this new mind-set at the end of this book.

The good news is that the group is finally growing. [4]

[4] Greg Howell and Lauri Koskela ( join Alan Patching (op cit) and others in addressing the need for a similar shift in project management approaches in the construction industry. You should also access the views of leading IT consultants such as Jim Highsmith, Doug DeCarlo, and Scott Ambler at


Managing projects is the management of creativity.

Jazz as eXtreme Project Management

John Kao in Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity (1997), and others use jazz as a metaphor for creative work. Anyone who has heard Miles Davis letting his awesome colleagues improvise within a highly organized but shifting structure knows the power of jazz. He was the first extreme project manager. [5] The key here, of course, is that you have to be a brilliant player to jam effectively. The same goes for creative teams: You need the best for eXtreme models to work.

[5] Rock bands such as The Grateful Dead, Phish, and King Crimson also get into creative jamming.

Radical Project Management
Radical Project Management
ISBN: 0130094862
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 136
Authors: Rob Thomsett

Similar book on Amazon © 2008-2017.
If you may any questions please contact us: