Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Philosophy of Projects and Products (Part 3 of 3)

“We’re on schedule for development and plan to start testing next week,” an upbeat Dave updated his manager, John.  John answered, “That’s good, but you’ve pulled developers from support to work OT to make the schedule, our support backlog is climbing, and now no one is available for the scheduled maintenance upgrade this weekend.  We need to take a closer look at how you are deciding the team’s priorities.”
Over the past two blog entries, on P&SD PM and Consultancy PM, I discussed two distinct project management philosophies.  This entry will discuss why this is important to a project manager, to a company hiring a project manager, to a company engaging a vendor of PM services, and to a supplier of PM services.
One area where the distinction is important is academia.  In some circles there are efforts to create a distinct School of Project Management separate from the School of Management.  Existing Management leadership resist this effort, answering that PM is just a variation of Management, not a distinct discipline.  Looking at P&SD PM, one could argue that P&SD PM is, as they argue, just a variation;   after all, it is generally found in organizations where PM is not a core competency, it serves the delivery of the organizations primary function, and general managers manage and utilize the PM services.  Consultancy PM, on the other hand, is a distinct model of management;  it doesn’t support an organization, it is the core competency of the organization.
Another area, closely related, is PM research.  Little of the published research on project management, such as that in Project Management Journal, distinguishes among the types of project management being practiced and the results of the research.  But what can be accurately inferred from the research when comparing such distinct practices as I’ve described in the two previous entries?
More relevant to the practicing project manager, especially one considering a career change, are the styles, cultures, practices, and expectations within organizations with the different PM environments.  I’ve worked in both types and management expectations are crucially different.  Further, the people – your managers and peers – in one are not likely to recognize the differences and prepare you for the changes.
As Peter M. Senge discusses in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (Doubleday, 1994), our mental models can artificially restrict our performance.  Be prepared when moving from a P&SD PM culture to a Consultancy PM culture, or vice versa, to let go of restrictive workplace assumptions.
Finally, the PM Best Practice blog endeavors to advance organizational maturity and continuous improvement.  The concepts explored in the P&SD PM environment and the Consultancy PM environment will be regularly revisited in future columns.  PM best practices are different in these environments and trying to force a set of best practices appropriate for one onto the other is, at best, frustrating.
Do you see other significant ways that the P&SD PM and Consultancy PM environments are relevant to you as a project manager?  If you’ve encountered any of the cultural differences that I describe, how did you adjust to them?

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