(This post is a bit of a rant based on recently seeing some truly disturbing and horrendous process for supposed project management improvement)
Now that’s a bold statement!
But let me explain why I think project management is an upside-down concept.
This is one of the characteristics of traditional project management; The vast majority of projects are conceived from the bottom up – the idea that you make an investment case to your organization’s investment review board, and if you know what the priorities of the day for your organization happen to be, all you need to do is to attach your proposal to those priorities and you will get money. Somehow you were able to make the case that you are contributing to the priorities of the organization. Really?
That’s akin to the old joke about a cost benefits analysis. When asked to do one, you need to respond with “and what would you like it to say”? Any good writer can make the CBA go in any direction the requester would like. Like to justify that nice shiny new toy? No problem. Want to not justify the nice shiny new toy one of your colleagues is pushing? No problem. I can go either way. Likewise for saying my pet project will help the organization achieve its priorities.
So this now newly minted project that was approved by the investment review board gets assigned a PM who not only now owns but also must defend the scope. They must also ensure their “sponsor” is identified and is also responsible for making sure the sponsor is engaged. Of course the PM also has to identify the risks for the project which invariable touches on sponsor/stakeholder ambivalence/lack of involvement, having their budget pulled, not getting the right people, and on it goes. Again, really? How the heck is the PM supposed to address or mitigate any of that?
What utter rubbish! And it’s upside down.
Presumably the organization has some sort of vision and mission. Surely they talk to their clients/customers to understand their need. Surely, they develop strategies and priorities that are in line with their mission and vision to satisfy those needs. Surely they realize that as an organization all they really are is a set of capabilities that coalesce around their mission and vision to meet those needs. Surely they realize that based on that understanding of things that they would stand up projects/initiatives to start incrementally adjusting/refining their capabilities to satisfy those needs within the context of their strategies and priorities.
No? Then I guess they do upside-down project management. Which is what makes it utter rubbish and a leading cause of PM breakdown (literal and figurative and both individual and organizational).
Want some hope for project success? You can start by not doing upside project management and do project leadership instead. Project leadership starts with doing things that are purpose-driven from priorities and strategies to satisfy the needs of your clients/customers that are also in line with your organization’s mission and vision. The role of the traditional PM moves from a role that owns things to a role that’s facilitating the team (see my earlier webinar)
What do you think? Still way too much upside down project management going on? In need of project leadership instead?
The Adaptive Strategy Framework is the first step in moving from upside-down project management to project leadership that is purpose-driven.