Sunday, January 18, 2009

Concerns about Emphisis on Project Management Methodologies

Paul Ritchie at Crossderry Blog has pushed me to think more clearly about the structures and guidelines in various approaches to project management.  I'm not trying to downplay PMI or any other methodology. PM is an evolving discipline. The structures and guidelines put forth by PMI, CMMi, PRINCE2, ITIL etc are important and have personally helped me immensely. 

My concern is that the structures and guidelines of PM (Project Schedules, Risk Management etc.) are the easy parts. As so often happens, people focus the most attention on making the easy and quantifiable things easier. Often what is most important are the non-quantifiable things. For lack of a better word, judgment. Warren Bennis has a beautiful description of judgment, something like: 

Judgment is like the Yeti. You can see it's footprints, but you never see the Yeti. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, PM has been linked with technology.  For large IT implementations, it's indispensable. But I'm not sure that link is beneficial to its development as a management discipline. Talk to someone in the construction industry and they will tell you a totally different story about PM. Talk to a wheelman at a restaurant. The wheelman is the person who makes sure that everyone at a table gets their dinner at the same time and at the same temperature. Talk to someone in the movie industry about making a movie, and they will all tell very different stories about what is essentially project management. Wouldn't those insights do more to further the discipline of PM then the refinement and codification of the structures and guidelines of PM? 

Fortunately or unfortunately, the people who have the most interest in furthering the discipline of PM are the people who have based their careers around training, consulting and perfection of the mechanistic elements of PM. Those are all important skills, but they are skills that downplay the art and the judgment aspects of PM. From my experience, the more I see PM structures and guidelines, the fewer footprints I see from good judgment.

A perfect example of where structure and content are perfectly merged and judgement is totally missed is provided by America’s Finest News Source (The Onion) in Project Manager Leaves Suicide PowerPoint Presentation

Photo Credit: CG


Bas said...

"Judgment is like the Yeti. You can see it's footprints, but you never see the Yeti."

That must already be the quote of the year! Brilliant!


Pawel Brodzinski said...

You can't put everying into one of "guide" boxes. While talking about general principles of project management it's easy to think about different methodologies, but when it comes to different issues, especially connected with people, you always need some good judgement and common sense.

I don't expect to see any methodology delivering a solution guide for that kind of problems since that would take away the rest of Yeti footprints.

Andrew Meyer said...


thanks. My ability to repeat brilliance far exceeds my ability to create it.


thanks, I agree with you, there is a lot that cannot be captured in guide books. As useful as they are, there is more which cannot be captured that must be learned through experience than there is that can be written down.

Craig Brown said...

we needto et a movie maker into this bloggig community :)

Project Management Methodology said...

Thanks for sharing this informative post

Project Management Software said...

The initiation processes determine the nature and scope of the project. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’ needs. The key project controls needed here are an understanding of the business environment and making sure that all necessary controls are incorporated into the project.

Project Management Software said...

To help remedy this situation, at the beginning of January 2010, the IT managers of several hospitals in Tanzania began gearing themselves up to test a new ‘digital pen’; one that can convert doctor’s handwriting into a compact, easy-to-archive digital file.

IT Support El Monte said...

Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. It is sometimes conflated with program management, however technically a program is actually a higher level construct: a group of related and somehow interdependent projects.

Andrew Meyer said...

@IT Support El Monte, thanks for the comment. You are correct, planning and organization are necessary, but its the actual work done on the project that makes it successful. There are times people will spend more time planning the work then is actually spent working.

Project Management Software said...

Project is a temporary aggrement with a definate beginning and definate end. The output of project is unique product, service or result. The purpose of project is nothing but the interrelated activities.

PMP Training said...

Yeah its a good article. According to you what we project managers do is communicating. And a lot of this communication is done during project meetings. It can sometimes feel like you are running from one meeting to another and that your time is often wasted. Meetings don’t start on time, the issues aren’t dealt with, there is no agenda, there is no focus, nobody assigns any follow ups or tasks and of course then they also don’t end on time. An efficient project manager is required for the good management of a project. I think a project manager should PMP certified. Looking forwards to apply what I learned in PMP classes in my company.