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