Projects and Squiggles


When we talk about processes, there’s a balance between traditional Project™ “waterfall” approaches - dependencies, critical paths, charters, etc. and what happens in practice - rapid prototypes, DIY experimentation, communities and networks, and emergent designs to support practice.

a traditional project management overview of the steps involved in implementing a learning management system

LMS Upgrade Plan Gantt

a traditional project management overview of the steps involved in implementing a learning management system

compared with

https://darcynorman.net/images/2020/squiggle-labels-outline.png

Damian Newman: The Design Squiggle

The Process of Design Squiggle by Damien Newman, thedesignsquiggle.com

There’s a place for both, but tension arises because people (I think) tend to think more like Damien Newman’s Squiggle1, but Project Managers™ think in Gantt charts. They aren’t always easily compatible.

The work I do straddles both worlds - campus-wide platforms require an approach that attempts to ensure reliability of service and protection of data. And the innovation that happens around the edges of a university is much more squiggly. We get to try to translate between the two approaches in order to serve the needs of the community.

Projects™ are hard - how do you really respond to changing needs, new ideas, prototypes, false starts, and failures?

Squiggles are hard - how do you estimate how much to budget for something like that? How many people are involved? What’s the sustainability model? Who supports Squiggly things?

It’s not one or the other approach. They need to fit together somehow - and that’s a challenge because the languages and concepts and responsibilities are so dramatically different.

This becomes even more challenging when faced with a funding crisis and the loss of the IT Partner role on campus - which was designed specifically to help bridge the worlds of Projects™ and Squiggles.


  1. I’ve used similar doodles to show this non-Project process flow before, but John Gruber just posted a link to The Design Squiggle, and it resonated again. ↩︎


work 

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