Disruptive project management

Disruptive technologies is the buzz word these days. What is disruptive technology?. Here are some examples;

Music downloads and file sharing vs. compact discs

ebooks vs. paper books

  • e-commerce vs. physical shops
  • Open-source software vs. proprietary software (for example Linux versus Microsoft Windows, although Linux has already largely displaced proprietary Unix)
  • Internet Video on Demand and IPTV vs. Advertising supported broadcast and cable television
  • VoIP (and VoIP over 802.11) vs. traditional telephone and mobile phone service.
  • portable mp3-players vs. the portable cassette players
  • DVD vs VHS tape (VHS has already undergone a great decline, particularly in the market for pre-recorded tapes, although the price of DVD recorders remains high enough for VHS home-recording to hang on for the present)

Do the conventional management styles hold good for managing projects involving disruptive technologies. Let us take a close look at the disruptive technology graph.

Initially disruptive technologies are not  used for the use my the majority mainstream users. It evolves over a period of time and grabs the attention of the low quality user. In India, the dual sim mobile phones were first deployed by the Chinese phone makers, followed by samsung and Nokia with low end phones. The first audience is the low – medium quality user segment, which then graduates into high quality use and most demanding use. This movement happens with a series of evolutionary innovative cycles. The requirements evolves, contrary to frozen requirements in conventional projects. The project cycle time is also shrinking. Apple store has nearly 160,000 applications and the android store is fast catching up, followed by ovi of nokia. These are all very tiny projects, which need to be upgraded rapidly. This calls for a radically different set of management principles based on;

  • Motivated individuals ( a given to be part of team)
  • Freedom to fail fast
  • Self organizing teams
  • Team learning
  • Iterative development
  • Manager as a servant leader
  • Primary focus on speed of execution than cost

Of all the given models which is existing today, I personally feel that SCRUM is the right fit for managing disruptive technology projects. Since SCRUM disrupts the current organizational structures, many look at it as a threat to their comfort zones. Based on the hands on implementation experience in India, we always found that the team and the senior management is for it, where as the middle management is against it, as their territories are challenged and mostly they come out with the propaganda that ‘SCRUM’ will not work for us.

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