At the outset, the intent was to see if we could "learn from history". If we could put an end to the seemingly never ending list of projects running late, over budget, and the products of those projects not delivering substantially on the business case for which they were undertaken. What we find is that not only the processes of project management, but also many of the basic tools and techniques, have all remained substantially unchanged not just for 70 years or so, but for many hundreds of years.
Sure, they have been mechanized, automated and computerized, but the processes themselves are truly much as they were when humans tamed fire or invented the wheel. One could argue that the propensity to "initiate, plan, execute, control and close" projects is somehow hard wired into the human psyche. And further, that if we don't have a "project" to keep us busy, then we invent them.
Yet despite over 6,000 years of history, it is clear from reading any newspaper around the world that projects are "failing" with increasing regularity and despite PMI, IPMA, APM/APMG and other supposedly "not for profit" professional societies having been around for 60 years or more; there is no hard evidence of any improvements.
So how much longer are we going to continue to do the same things over and over again and expecting different results? And more importantly, when are we going to capture the lessons learned over the past 6,000 years and apply them to today's projects? We do know that the oil and gas industry has developed a model that, when followed appropriately, results in "successful" projects. They also result in the production of successful products and services created, acquired, updated, expanded, maintained and eventually disposed of their organizational assets. However, this model only works if and when we are able to define scope and/or objectives to 70% or more, and the project is able to tolerate changes within this band.
If this is not true, then we need to find one of the alternate asset delivery options that are appropriate to the scope/objective definition and tolerance for changes.
The recommendations from this paper are simple:
- We need to pressure PMI, APM, IPMA, APM and other organizations to follow the lead of AACE with their Total Cost Management Framework (TCMF) and the Guild of Project Controls with their Compendium and Reference (GPCCaR) and adopt the Asset centric approach developed by Esso/Diamond Shamrock circa 1955 and still in use today. This means merging ISO 55000 with ISO 21500.
- Stop positioning the Project Manager as the "star" of the show. The project manager is an important supporting actor, but the real stars of the show are the Asset and Operations Managers in their role as project sponsors. Those are the people who make the strategic decisions that determine whether a project will or will not produce the organizational assets to enable the organization to "realize any benefits."
- Recognize the reality that "waterfall" project management is not the only available delivery system for organizational assets, nor is it necessarily the best under all circumstances.
- Hold project managers and project sponsors legally and financially accountable for the decisions they make. Until or unless there is more accountability, misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance by project sponsors, project managers and project team members will continue.
The author realizes that what is proposed here will be considered heresy by some. But given that most of the world is at or near bankruptcy at this time, we really don't have much choice other than to admit that what we have been advocating for the past 50‑60 years is not working as it should.
Only a major change in thinking is going to fix this problem. That means going back to basics, adopting "best tested and proven" practices and then testing people for competency, not just the ability to pass multiple-choice questions.
Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo
26. Merrow, Edward W. (2011) "Industrial Megaprojects - Concepts, Strategies and Practices for Success", John Wiley and Son https://goo.gl/tcssPp.