This paper was presented to a conference on "The Project Management Information Society", May 14-16, 1995, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was given at a time when the idea of a Canadian project management institute was being promoted.

Published November 2001

Introduction  | Client-Server | Leadership | Project Life Cycle
Team Building | Skills |  Knowledge | PMI•Canada | Conclusions

A Role for PMI•Canada: Two Master Strokes

Fundamental Differentiation

Perhaps the first master stroke for PMI•Canada is to recognize that there are two very fundamentally different types of project. The distinguishing feature results in a very different approach to the project management process itself and, I suggest, a very different approach to project management education. This broad division transcends the purely technical aspects of a project, its industry category, or an individual's job description.

The issue is whether the product of the project is physical in nature (such as a new facility, or tangible product) or intellectual (such as in new information processing systems, research projects, or customer service) These are as distinct as hardware versus software.

The former group are much more amenable to logical planning, scheduling and estimating, the traditional techniques of project management. This is not true of intellectual projects. Intellectual projects are much less structured, too little is known, network logic is fuzzy and, of necessity, they must be managed from phase to phase. Each succeeding phase cannot be planned until the results of the prior phase are at hand. Interestingly, for this type of project, Robert Waterman, the widely respected co-author of "In Search of Excellence", has coined the phrase "Adhocracy"[7].

Adhocracy is an environment in which it is necessary to lend a semblance of structure to the apparently unknown. It is still necessary to break the project up into bite-sized chunks (Work Breakdown Structure) but the chunks are based on phase sequence rather than on deliverables. Only the first in the sequence is planned in any detail. Subsequent phases are planned only in the very loosest sense. In fact, more detailed planning would only get in the way of progressing to the most satisfactory project conclusion.

In this environment and until the final phase, the "people" aspect, and communication between them during the course of the project, is paramount over focus on producing the final product.

Building a New Platform

The second master stroke for PMI•Canada is to recognize that it is unrealistic to expect a single generic qualification to represent any serious degree of competence in managing all types of project. To recognize, in fact, that the present Project Management Professional (PMP) designation and its qualification process is, at best, a universal entry level qualification.

Interestingly, the European organization, INTERNET, have devised their qualification based on a new concept of competency standards. This appears to take the opposite tack of peer review rather than our US-based multiple choice examination. Most likely what is needed is some compromise between these two extremes. However, what is first needed is a more open Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) structure that recognizes all the factors discussed earlier.

Here, I see excellent opportunities for PMI•Canada to chart a new course in setting criteria for the contents of a Canadian PMBOK as well as setting standards for qualification. Not reinventing the wheel, but building on the work of others towards a new, more advanced project management platform.

Knowledge Transfer  Knowledge Transfer

7.  Waterman R H Adhocracy, The Power to Change, W W Norton & Co., NY, 1992, p16 & 59.
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