Morris, Peter. Reconstructing Project Management Reprised: A Knowledge Perspective. Project Management Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, October 2013, p13. © 2013 by the Project Management InstituteThis is the seventh in my series of posts
commenting on nine questions that Peter Morris asked in his October article in Project Management Journal. We are nearing completion of this series, with just a little wrap-up remaining.
In my previous post, I described a vision (or maybe it’s just a prediction) where senior leadership of the enterprise recognizes the value of enterprise (organizational) change management and the Project Management Office (PMO) is a strategically positioned general business service, on the order of Finance and HR.In today’s world with generally weak PMOs, project management is in place to serve as agents of other organizational leaders – leaders who have strategic responsibility and delegate the tactical delivery to the PM agents. As PM continues to mature and organizations recognize the value of organizational change, PMO oversight and management of the organizational portfolio will elevate PMO leadership first to valuation of the profit-loss (revenue vs cost) of the change portfolio and eventually to recognition of the asset value of the project portfolio. This should happen naturally and organically, much as Finance moved from obscure back-office accounting responsibilities a century ago.
The real question is whether the leading project management organizations of today (such as PMI), recognize this evolution and take proactive measures to guide the future, or do they keep their feet securely grounded in the traditions of the profession and slowly wither into obscurity, or do they flounder reactively, without vision or philosophy, responding to the latest fad (to foreshadow the next post), until organizations realize that the value and esteem of the credential are so diminished that it is no longer relevant.Here’s where I break with Morris: What’s the point of this question? What is a task? What is a project? What is a program? Yes, PMI has its definitions, but are they adequate? A project is composed of Deliverables, Activities and Tasks. A well-defined task has a single owner. It is a black box delegated to one person. But, let’s say an executive tells his assistant “I’m going to the convention. Get me a flight, hotel and car.” Is that a project or a task? It meets all of the components of the definition of a PMI project.
My point is that there is really nothing to distinguish a task from a project, except hierarchy. Further, if you conceptualize a well-defined program as consisting of projects and deliverables (within those projects), then there is nothing really to distinguish a project from a program except hierarchy. We have a natural recursive-descent system that just happens to have different names for nodes based on arbitrary values of size and scale (if you think that’s not true, compare your programs, projects, deliverables and tasks to NASA’s).I realize Morris is trying to make a point about how PMI defines and explains these terms. But he’s fixated on arbitrary labels. To assume they’re inappropriate and then try to make sense of them just confuses me. If they’re wrong, just say they’re wrong and offer up the improved definitions, conceptual framework and explanations.
So project management, whether that’s managing programs, projects, tasks, activities, deliverables or recipes (just tossed that one in to see if you’re paying attention), as I’ve explained over the past several posts, has to have a tactical delivery component and, at some level and possibly formalized at some point in the future, the strategic organizational-benefit elements. It isn’t either-or. Though it may be temporally not now, but then.© 2014 Chuck Morton. All Rights Reserved.