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Project Management Around the World — The Hub of the Universe

Toby Elwin Blog, Portfolio Planning 9 Comments

Project management, around the world, atlas, toby elwin, #pmflashblog

The Project Management Institute view of how the world is held high … hey, wait a minute, where’s Boston?

From the Hub of the Universe comes this recovering project manager’s view:

  • Project managers know where project success relies:  project management.
  • People from Boston know where the Hub of the universe lies:  Boston.

Both, however, disconnect themselves from majority view:

  1. Those outside project management are, generally, unaware of project management’s boast for project success; and
  2. Those outside Boston are, generally, unaware of Boston’s boast as the Hub.

The above views present both insular and delusional states of self-importance. The majority do not even feign acknowledgement of a Hub of which I speak.  Just as too-few organization interactions acknowledge project management boasts. 

From Hub to Outlier

In too many organizations around the world project management discipline is not mature, not accepted, and not an acknowledged, competence path to project success. The Project Management Institute (PMI) view posits that the world spins on its very axis through the grace of a certified, Project Management Professional (PMP), stewarding the initial revolution project.

We have a disconnect.

Why is this?

No professional would not want functional capability to identify, manage, and mitigate any of the following:

  • Project constraints to understand scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources, and risk relationship
  • Scope management planning
  • Risk management planning
  • Stakeholder management planning
  • Work breakdown structure/dictionary
  • Project Life Cycle

Here’s why:  no one cares as much about you as you and a project manager, cognitive bias of project management reveals the project manager belief for the critical success factor is a deeply held project management view of the world.

The challenge is that we see what we are:

  • An accountant sees debits and credits;
  • A lawyer sees litigation and hourly fees;
  • A Lean/Six Sigma black belt sees waste;
  • A business architect sees capability models;
  • A human resource person sees compliance and litigation (strangely similar to a lawyer, hmm?)

A project manager views a new project through up-front identification, managing expectation, change control, work breakdown structure, stakeholder management.  Those not project managers only see tools, templates, forms, and meetings – few others are tolerant for that.

There may be enough to acknowledge project management need, but not enough to commit to required project management discipline.

Just get it done and leave me be is the attitude.

Ask someone to sit down to identify scope, stakeholders, risk, and impact and their eyes glaze over, or, as my 1st-year, MBA professor used to say, MEGO meaning:  Manager’s Eyes Glaze Over.

Ask for a sign-off on a communication plan and suddenly, meetings shortened and attendance sparse. What we do impacts them and they only care about what’s in it for them?.  Just like the scorpion and the frog (turtle, pelican … whatever) fable in the brief video below, what we say is not what people care about.

Conceptually, yes, yes, yes, the organization does want better project management.

Realistically, however, organizations all want to have better accounting discipline too, but who loves pending meeting run by accountants when they have an organization they prefer to run than meeting with bean counters? No one sees more accountants invited to more meetings, unless we are talking about an accounting all-hands meeting.

Few want to head to an operational meeting with HR involved, even fewer to a meeting held in HR and you their guest. From the Hub, I see project management as a profession that, outside of the construction industry, is not the big deal we believe it, ourselves, is.

Project Management Step to Recovery

I consider myself a recovering project manager because the function did not fit acceptance.  Project manager ability to scope and deliver an effort is critical to organization value in money saved and motivation to deliver, but never matches times a project manager is marginalized to meeting scheduler and note-taker.

I believe reliable project management is one of the final frontiers of competitive advantage, though I bet Lean/Six Sigma folks and process reengineer folks feel the same.

I would never aspire to a project manager career.

I would never, again, aspire to a project manager role.

However, since dedicating myself to project management skills at Deloitte, subsequent PMI certification, and active roles with PM communities throughout the North East, United States, I can not imagine career success without the project management knowledge, ability, and skills, as well as I do.

According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge, project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.  That defines a set that is not just nice-to-know, but a required-to-know for any professional who looks to identify and manage any budget, in any organization, at any time.

It is not about risk, it is about ranking risk and MEGO (Manager’s Eyes Glaze Over) risk.

It’s What I Do

Now that I know project management, I know of no other way to look at an effort without attempt to tighten scope, identify risk, understand the impact, and manage stakeholders.  It is now, routinely, what I do.

The goal for project management is to become a reliable, scalable discipline to scope and deliver projects and products.  Just as an accountant strives for 100% compliance an organization 10% better is 10% better than it was.

Incremental improvement is improvement none-the-less.  So is incremental organization, project management discipline.

Fatefully, though, I have never met a manager, leader, or executive who backs up project management rhetoric with the same commitment – to say nothing of project management disciple from themselves … scope anyone?

The sooner project management realizes we do not deliver a process, but a promise, is the sooner we move to relevance. Really, the business of business is business.  Business health comes as either 1) top-line growth or 2) increased margin and this only comes from two, acknowledged areas:  sales and finance.

Project management delivers to both opportunity, but so says organization development and so says system engineers. Where I sit, project management is functional, like accounting and financial management, and represent the table stakes for any person looking to move from an individual contributor to a professional manager.

Project management, accounting, and financing are need-to-know for any professional manager to move to executive manager. A required set of development skills, not a job title.

Project management maximizes resources; no organization would not value that competence.

Sadly, just because project management delivers, never expect a stakeholder or sponsor to accept invitations to an impact assessment meeting, change control board review, or a genuine lessons-learned project closing session.

No one likes to talk about scope management as much as I like to talk about scope management, but for some reason, no one else wants to hear how much I like to talk about scope management, either.

Tools, templates, templates, tools all are irrelevant compared to business objective.

Project management is what we do, not what they want done and not what they want to hear about.

From the Fringe to the Hub

Boston as the Hub of the universe.

Success relies on project management.

Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the term Hub of the Solar System as a term for the Massachusetts State House.  The accepted term, amongst the few who know, has now morphed into Boston as the Hub of the Universe.  The universe is much bigger than our solar system, but if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears, who cares what we call the Hub and what we call a spoke.

The hub of organization success relies on successful project scope and project delivery, but getting other’s commitment within the organization is our biggest challenge that we need to resolve to move from a fringe outpost to the hub of relevance.

From the Hub of Universe I see few care as much about project management as project managers.

PM PS

#pmFlashBlog, Toby Elwin, blog, project management, #pmFlashBlog2This post is the second #pmFlashMob coordinated by the tireless, tremendous, but very sensible, Project Management, ambassador Mark Phillipy.

Project Managers represent a mob worthy of the Lexington Green and I appreciate the invitation to write on Project Management around the World.

Look for subsequent, #pmFlashMob2 posts and all the rabble on these dates:

  • March 3rd – North America
  • March 10th – Europe
  • March 17th – Australia & New Zealand
  • The rest of the world

The blog post follows Shim Marom’s initial #pmFlashMob and my contribution What does project management mean to me – a project manager’s sermon.

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