Fractal Project Management

by Dave Jenkins

So, we’ve all disparaged Waterfall software development as overly cumbersome and simply undoable in today’s go-go world. Agile came along and promised to tighten everything up, but in reality most people just say the words ‘agile’ and they really mean ‘cram waterfall methods into 2 week segments’. (”Manifesto“? Really? The last guys to use that word didn’t do so well.) Here is my new proposal for software and project management: The Fractal Method.

The Fractal Method will take 3-5 core principles and apply them at all levels. Just as a fractal equation takes 3-5 variables in some algorithm and applies them at any scale (kilometer or millimeter level), the Fractal Method for project method will take 3-5 core principals and apply them at large application development as well as small tasks. This seems stupidly simple, but that’s one of my first suggestions for ‘Core Principles’: keep things stupidly simple.

To implement The Fractal Method, make sure of the following:

1. Get all the business people and developers in a room and tell them that we’re all going to follow the Fractal Method.
2. Explain that the method means that we’re all signing on to 5 core principles, and we’re going to decide them right now.
3. Make sure the Core Principles are short and simple enough to be memorized by EVERYONE
4. Play a game so that everyone begins to memorize them.
5. Go sing some Karaoke together, because everything will be great from now on

Anything beyond this, in my opinion, is hand-waving and/or bullshit project management fluff. PMs make decent money, and for some reason it’s all too tempting for a PM to schmooze the bosses with fancy methods and drawings and charts to show that they’re worth all that money, when I would much rather pay them to actually get shit done.

With that, here are my Core Principles (if we were to deploy the Fractal Method):

1. Keep things stupidly simple. Call bullshit on complex proposals and passive-voice responses
2. Write everything down in a common area. Wikis are nice. So are white boards in the hallway
3. Divide by 3. Divide each task into 3 subtasks until each item is less than 1 day’s worth of work
4. 20 Minutes. Meetings are never longer than 20 minutes. If you didn’t decide everything, that’s okay, because you can meet again later, but 20 minutes was enough to give people things to do between now and the next meeting.
5. Results win. Results are worth more than estimations or plans

There ya go. I think I’ll start writing a book.




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