Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reconstructing Project Management (6 of 9)

Should project managers work to achieve effectiveness goals (value, functionality, business performance) or just stay with efficiency ones (on time, in budget, to scope, etc.)?

Morris, Peter.  Reconstructing Project Management Reprised: A Knowledge Perspective.  Project Management Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, October 2013, p13.  © 2013 by the Project Management Institute
This is the sixth in my series of posts commenting on nine questions that Peter Morris asked in his October article in Project Management Journal.  With this question, we transition to a new, much more comfortable, area of inquiry.

Is it possible to distinguish between what a project manager does and what project management is?
In these posts responding to Morris’ questions, I have generally taken a practical, realistic, down-to-earth perspective.  In one way that makes sense:  I’m a practicing PM who works in the enterprise;  Morris is an academician.  I am pointing out the practical, realistic flaws with what I see as his ideal vision.  But that approach appears to put me in opposition to Morris.

And that is what is neither fair nor appropriate.  I support his vision.  It’s my vision, too.  My comments are not for the purpose of shooting down and deriding Morris’ vision, but rather that in exposing the cracks, we can seal them and strengthen the foundation of a broader, more strategic profession of project management.
Mike Rother, in Toyota Kata (2010) describes the Toyota continuous improvement practice of establishing a target condition and then working to achieve it (chapter 5).  The target condition has to be some better state and the approach for achieving it has to be unclear, to be determined.  The target condition is some future ideal state that the worker then, in incremental, experimental steps, strives, with their supervisor, to achieve.

I hear in Morris’ questions:  Are these the ideal states that the profession should be striving for (working toward) as the future of project management?  If so, and I believe so, then what is the next incremental step to get us there?
I actually see us already progressing in the right direction, though fitfully and reactively, rather than strategically, proactively and guided by a philosophical/ academic vision.  In the world of our past, companies were uncomfortable with change (projects), so they temporarily brought in specialists (PMs) to manage and drive the change.  As companies become more comfortable with change, as they recognize that change is continuous and that it’s necessary for competitive advantage and survival, they are institutionalizing the organizational change capability into a permanent, operational component of the organization.  It is called the Project Management Office (PMO).

With this evolution, the project manager role is changing.  Historically, the PM’s value was as a hired gun brought in to deliver a higher-level vision – that is, deliver the tactical expertise for planning, managing and controlling time, cost and scope – for benefit of a change agent within the organization.  This was how they were valued, rewarded, measured and compensated.
The PM of the future, though, will be a resource within the PMO.  The PMO will be responsible for delivering the change and will have developed criteria and methodologies for doing so.  The PM of the future will be rewarded, measured and compensated for compliance to and practice of the processes, use of the standard tools, and appropriate knowledge, skills and capabilities of the tools and processes.

So the flaw in Morris’ question, above, is that it should be “Should project management work to…”  Project managers of the future will still do the same tactical activities they do now – maintain schedules, track costs, calculate earned value, identify and manage risks, etc.  But they will do them following the proscribed processes of the PMO, rather than as craftsmen imbued with a mysterious skill.  It is the PMO that will do the meta-activities of managing a project:  Plan cost management, plan schedule management, plan risk management, plan procurement management, etc.
It is the PMO that will have the seat at the table to drive the enterprise effectiveness goals of the project, the program and the portfolio.

Regrettably, the poor PM of the future will not even have the golden triangle of constraints to point to when describing what they do.  They will have to pull out a thick procedures manual instead.
The future is sunnier for the profession, but the professional suffers.

© 2014 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

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