The Evolution of Project Management
I’ve been in Project Management for most of my career, about 25 years, and I can comfortably say that it has evolved from a little known and unnamed discipline to a sophisticated and mature existence. It is found in all industries and companies from small to global. I’d go on to say that as a discipline it is still evolving, expanding, and crossing into other disciplines. As many have demonstrated, new ideas and competitive requirements drive change. Add the rapid pace of technological developments, and practitioners are required to evolve. Some will resist and remain purists while others are forced to adopt, and some embrace or innovate. The fact is that Project Management in its simplest form is “Getting it done.” “It” can be replaced by other words. How you get “it” done is the challenge. There are those that have delivered projects in the past and believe there is only one way. Their success has contributed to their ego and they know “the way.” Their way may have been successful but any number of variables can affect the success of delivery. Others follow a recipe provided by any number of associations and organizations that earn a fee for aggregating and disseminating best practices. Yet others use experience, best practices, and adjust to the environment and requirements of the project at hand.
The traditional waterfall approach along with all the basics; charter, scope, stakeholders, assumptions, deliverables, milestones, risks, status reports, etc. work well with many projects where a definitive end is possible or where the solution is transitioned to an operational mode. Agile seems to be better for requirements that are ever changing. The Software Development Life Cycle seems to be adapting well to the Agile approach for this reason. I don’t have firsthand experience in hardware, but would imagine the same logic would apply. The point being that project managers have to adapt to multiple variables that can affect the solution or deliverables. The best project management approach must adapt to the environment, project requirements, and business objectives. There is no definitive method or approach to project management. A project manager must have a tool belt with experience using various tools and able to apply those tools when required to a project for the benefit of the stakeholders. We have had success with the use of various methodologies and in some cases created hybrids to address the requirements.
Project management is used in all areas of business. Information Technology and construction projects have been long time beneficiaries of project management techniques. However, since all areas of business are now dependent upon IT, they too require the same project management techniques. For this reason project, managers must have an understanding of many areas of the business. Understanding business processes and how technology enables or hampers the flow of information, the decisions required, and the completion of transactions. An effective project manager cannot be a taskmaster with limited understanding of the business or processes. Issues and challenges will not be addressed efficiently if the business and information requirements are not understood or considered. Effective project managers can understand and relate to the challenges faced by the business stakeholders. They will facilitate interactions and solutions with creative third parties. Knowing and getting the right people to the table will pay huge dividends. All of our PM’s have a diverse background and can straddle and dabble in any area of the business for the benefit of the company.
The most under-appreciated requirement at many companies is change management–Not to be confused with change control. The latter being the control of changes into a production environment. Change Management (CM) is the art of planning, communication, adoption, and utilization of business processes and technology for the benefit of the organization. Every project requires some degree of CM. The challenge is how and when to introduce the often neglected requirement of CM. The earlier the better! Change also requires skills that are not easily taught or learned. I came across an interesting diagram describing the “Equation for Change” that intrigued me. It depicts how certain requirements for change can create outcomes when missing or present in different combinations. See graph below.
I found this diagram to be very representative of many of my past projects. In project management, we attempt to identify all five requirements for the specific initiative or requirement. The book “The Next Evolution – Enhancing and Unifying Project and Change Management,” by Thomas L. Jarocki, merges two natural disciplines into one form of de livery. I have found that the softer skills of change management are as important as the tools and methodologies offered up by traditional subject matter experts. A project manager is becoming a critical resource to the organization and can be very instrumental in delivering expected results.