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24 January 2008

Bas De Baar > Project Sociology

Bas de Baar runs a website and blog at SoftwarePojects.org. He has also written two books called “Surprise! Now you're a Software Project Manager” and “The Microwave way to Software Project Management.”

Bas’s particular angle on Project Management is that more attention needs to be spent on managing the people. I have been reading his blog for a while and occasionally commenting on it, and yes, I recommend it to project managers and people who work on projects in general. In particular Bas reads widely and often points his readers at some fascinating information on project management.

Recently the topic of social project came up again. I referenced it here. The blog post and presentation got me more curious about the topic. In particular, as I read the presentation I disagreed with several of the premises, but not with the conclusions. It prompted me to raise a question with Bas.

My thoughts went like this: If traditional gated project management is one end of the project methods spectrum and Agile is the other, where does project sociology fit in? From what I can gather, I think it applies across the spectrum of methods and practices.

Sociology is about the tensions and challenges that come with bringing diverse people together in a social environment. This applies regardless of the project methodology, and in my view is important in all work/project environments.

Bas has a Master’s degree in project management and so is well educated in the higher level theories. In his writing it appears that his views on methods is that they are tools to be pulled out and used as the situation demands it.

So I asked Bas, where he sees Project Sociology fitting in to that spectrum, and why is it he seems to becoming an agile enthusiast?

He agrees that project sociology is not specific to any particular method, and goes further to say that project sociology (and psychology) is in fact “the only way to understand why projects are taking a certain direction; why things happen or don't happen within a project”

As for his vies on Agile software development, his view is that the philosophies underpinning Agile are aligned with his BUT projects are all unique and have their special sets of needs, and this context needs to be understood.

However, the Agile way has the advantage of explicitly addressing the human aspects of project management and adapting to change.

At the end of the day projects need to be focused on solving clients’ problems, flexible and oriented towards outcomes rather than ceremony. Again these are things that are articulated in the Agile Manifesto.

Lastly, what was it that got Bas motivated to spread the word about the Social Project Management presentation? It was “the link between agile (the underlying assumptions), the fact that they seem to work for a certain type of projects, and tells us the next big challenge: do they scale?”

You can read more about BAS’ views on Agile here and here.

You can read his 15 minute presentation on his Surprise book here. And you can buy his book for a light and entertaining read here.