Thursday, November 10, 2011

A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors in the subgenre of speculative fiction (or science fiction) to construct a common background for fiction. Sometimes the author publishes a timeline of events in the history, while other times the reader can reconstruct the order of the stories from information provided therein.
                                                                           From Wikpedia (retrieved 11/09/2011)

I plan to someday post on the Future History of project management.  In the meantime, we might be able to catch a glimpse of what the future holds by looking at one of the more innovative approaches to project delivery that I’ve seen.
I learned about from an article in Harvard Business Review (“The Age of Hyperspecialization,” Thomas W. Malone, Robert J. Laubacher, and Tammy Johns, July-August 2011, vol 89, pp 56-65).  I apologize to the people of in advance that my description will certainly not do their service justice.  In a nutshell, if you want a software solution you contract with them.  The solution is presented as a contest (or series of contests) and qualified contestants compete to deliver your solution.  Further, the contest is decomposed into a standard Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC):  Ideas, Planning, Prototypes, Build, Testing, Problems/Problems/Problems, and Deployment.
Project Management is superfluous in their context.  Think about what we Project Managers do:  plan, estimate, monitor & control, communicate, eliminate blockages, herd cats.’s methodology and tools eliminate the need for all of these.  On traditional projects, PMs are necessary to assure a meaningful methodology is used and that resources stay focused on their responsibilities.  PMs aren’t necessary when the development methodology is enforced and practiced by all practitioners and where the resources are already fully engaged and motivated (or they lose the competition).  The methodology itself and all the participants enforce the methodology.
Some will respond to this commentary that what Topcoder is doing is different, it’s not project management, and it won’t displace us (i.e., it’s not a competitive threat).  I refer these skeptics to “In Praise of Dissimilarity” (Michael Gibbert and Martin Hoegl, MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2011, Vol 52 No. 4, pp 20-22).  Some of the biggest competitive threats originate from where we’re not expecting them.
What do you see bulldozing the project management profession?

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