Waterfall Anonymous

My name is Bill, and I’m a Project Manager.

Hi, Bill

My story isn’t very different from most of yours.  I started out just doing simple experimenting with Gantt charts, hoping it would be an easier way to track my projects than Excel.  At first I told my self I could put them down any time, but they produced such pretty pictures that I couldn’t stop staring at them.  Naturally, the Gantt charts were just the gateway that lead me to Microsoft Project, and that’s when my real problems began.

The pictures were so precise, and the dates were so compelling, that I just couldn’t stop trying to force my project to match the dates.  I started inventing percentage completion for my tasks to give the appearance that things were on track.  When members of my project team convinced me that an actual date was different from the plan, I would plug it in and watch the deviation ripple throughout my entire project.  This caused me to go into violent fits of rage, threatening team members to find some way to make up the time.  When they couldn’t do that, they simply lied to me about where things were.  I started sharing those lies with my management – anything to avoid the truth that my project was really out of control.

I thought I found salvation when I took a workshop on risk management.  All I had to do was put something on a pretty spreadsheet called a “Risks and Issues Log” and I had my excuse.  We could tolerate all sorts of delays without anyone getting mad at me because I had logged the risk.  But the project still couldn’t match the plan, and then the PMO came up with earned value management which turned my lack of success into a pair of numbers that would not be denied.  My respite was over, and I began spiraling down faster than ever before.  I stayed up endless nights looking for ways to fudge the plan, as my contingency slipped away before my eyes and I stared at project failure again and again.

Someone finally told me about Agile, and I tried to do it myself.  But the temptations were just too much for me.  I couldn’t handle the fact that I could not longer project end dates.  My release plan had a schedule, but no guaranteed functionality to go into that schedule.  I secretly put the release plan into a Project file so I could track the dates and the variances. Allowing business owners to simply add to the backlog at any time felt too much like scope creep.  I kept introducing change management forms to push the needed functionality out of scope.  But all that did was confuse my team, and lead me right back into the fits of temper and sleepless nights that had destroyed me before.

I finally realized that I needed help.  I finally realized that the lure of a detailed schedule and blame-avoidance procedures were more than I could control on my own.  I need someone to show me how to fight the temptation to over-control my projects.  I need someone to show me how to accept change as a part of life.  I need someone to show me how to accept responsibility for my achievements and failures, and how to admit and learn from my mistakes.  The Scrum Alliance pointed me to this group.  I hope it can help.

Editor’s note: This is a fictional excerpt in order to protect the anonymity of the members.  It is presented as a public service so you can know you are not alone.  But don’t be afraid.  You can break the Waterfall habit.  You can learn to produce high quality software efficiently and without sacrificing your personal life.  Help is out there.

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