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Author: Claude Emond

Is the Gantt Chart Dead or Just Another Victim of Tool Disease?

I am a proponent of using lean and agile project management concepts, whenever the context calls for them, be it on part of a project or the whole of it. I don’t care if the project is a construction project, a software development project or the implementation of a PMO. The original agile philosophy, that I espouse, is the following: “To every project its own methodology”.

I consider what’s in the PMBOK as including major concepts about project management, universal processes for me, particularly the IPECC processes (what has been opened must be closed, being the gist of it). As for methodology, I have an agile mindset: “Context dictates”. That’s the paradigm I live in.

However, even agile management promoters eventually forget about what agility means and end up becoming tyrants, blinded by almost religious fanaticism, just like some traditional project management gurus. Some of those agile gurus even push for the adoption of a Universal Agile Methodology, for which you must be certified, (APMP certification?), to be considered genuine, the antithesis of what agility is all about. Concepts, methodologies and tools become a single, huge, monolithic dictate that must be closely followed to assure your salvation. Sounds familiar? Has agile/lean project management caught Tool Disease? Has it fallen to this plague that makes people stop thinking about their project context (or just stop thinking, plain and simple)? Must we use lean and agile as a big recipe to manage all projects, with compulsory tools that you cannot stray away from without being doomed? Sounds familiar again?

It happens to me quite often nowadays. When I teach project management “universal processes”, then talk about lean and agile, and then talk about specific tools, and then mention Gantt charts and CPM in passing, I’ll be strongly challenged by an angry agile adept. Basically, what I am told is that lean and agile PMs do not use Gantt charts and even forbid such “dangerous” tools. This is what was told to them by so-called saviours coming to this world with a new recipe and its brand new set of tools. This belief in the eminent demise of the Gantt chart is also reinforced by surveys like the one done by Scott Ambler (, in which close to 70% of the 781 respondents consider detailed Gantt charts as having no value, or close to no value, in helping them manage their projects.

So here we go again with new fads for the unthinking mind. Forget about context, forget about Gantt charts, just forget about common sense. To those who believe that Gantt charts are a dead case, I suggest they read The Demise of the Gantt Chart in Agile Software Projects by Tate Stuntz on the context of agile software projects and on why Gantt charts are not a good idea in this context. To those who have to manage crazy projects like the “commissioning, start-up and production ramp-up of a two billion dollar aluminium production plant”, I ask: “Is it so different from the one I had to work on once…a feat we were only able to achieve with the help of a 10, 000 tasks CPM network and the associated, very useful, Gantt chart?”

So I say: “Think twice before not doing your homework in the name of lean or agile principles; you will find chaos and a big loss in your agility to see things coming and take proper action.” Never forget that “Context dictates”. Stay away from recipes, do not catch Tool Disease (or look fast for a cure) and do not forfeit your responsibility to be a thinking project manager using common sense and a functioning brain.

And you, what do you say ?

Positive Risk: An Idea Whose Time Should Never Have Come!

Claude Emond’s Blog, SURVIVING THE PROJECT AGE, in which he shares his views and ideas about project management – and invites you to share yours

“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.” (Albert Einstein)

We live in the Project Age. Projects are everywhere, used as means to adapt to and succeed in our exciting, ever-changing uncertain world! To succeed, we need to communicate better; this is not what the concept of “positive risk” is doing for us!

The word ’risk‘ dates back to the late 1600s, derived from the Italian ’riscare’ meaning to run into danger. The Oxford English dictionary defines it as a situation involving exposure to danger, the possibility that something unpleasant will happen. The word ’opportunity‘ dates back to the late 1300s, derived from the Latin ’opportunitatem‘ meaning fitness, suitableness, favourable time. The Oxford defines ’opportunity‘ as a favourable time or set of circumstances for doing something, quite the contrary to the meaning of risk. So both history and dictionaries, which I propose, reflect common wisdom, are quite clear on the subject: a risk is associated with a probable negative impact, while an opportunity is something that we can make to evolve into a positive.

In a mysterious effort to rewrite history, we PMBOK-trained project managers now define a risk as an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objective; and an opportunity as a risk that will have a positive impact on project objectives (source: PMBoK), a so-called positive risk. This is not a “necessary paradigm shift”, as promoted by some authors; this is just adding “unnecessary confusion” in boardrooms (where those who pay for projects reside!), a disservice to the cause of improved risk and opportunity management on projects.

We do not need a paradigm shift to manage both risks and opportunities. We simply need to rigorously apply SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis and management on our projects. Since upper management in most organizations is already familiar with the well-known SWOT technique, making it a preferred PM tool to discuss both project risks and project opportunities would really serve to create a better communication bridge with upper management. An attack on historical wisdom, using a new concept like positive risk will never create better communication nor promote good project management in the boardrooms.

We can’t survive the Project Age with moves like that! We can survive it by using common wisdom, the same dictionary and already proven tools like SWOT! So I say: let’s flush this positive risk nonsense, and include proper SWOT analysis and management in our PM toolbox!

And you, what do you say?

Part of this text is taken and adapted from the article “From Donald Rumsfeld to Little Gibus : Managing project risk and uncertainty revisited”, Le Bulletin (PMI Montreal Quarterly Newsletter), Vol. 14, No 3, Dec 2005 (