What We Liked Part 2: Deconstructing Project Management
Author Peter Morris introduces Part 2 with the following observation:
"Our account of how project management grew so incredibly over the last 60-100 or so years, from a largely instinctive skill to a highly popular management discipline, offering benefit to practitioners and real interest to scholars of management and organization theory, has concluded that there are still substantial differences of view on what essentially the discipline is less perhaps what constitutes good practice but more on how the discipline, or the domain, should be seen as a whole, and how its application might vary under different conditions and contexts."
Phew! According to my word processor, that's 89 words in one sentence! The Gunning Fog Index tells us that you need over forty years of formal education in order to easily understand this text on first reading. In other words, several post-doctoral degrees would be handy for the job, and hence the sentence is clearly written for the edification of other academics. But not to worry, let us try "Deconstructing" it to see what it implies.
We like the phrase: "a highly popular management discipline, offering benefit to practitioners and real interest to scholars of management and organization theory". That is certainly true. Yet, according to polls over the last couple of decades, project management does not appear to have improved its "success" rates very much. Still, think of the employment it has brought, and the benefits to the economy...
On: "still substantial differences of view on what essentially the discipline is", this is very true. However, such differences, when aired, do bring serious concentration on the details at hand. Central, appears to be the difference between what project management currently is, and what some people would like it to be."
And finally, "the domain should be seen as a whole". We could not agree more. We believe that the project starts, even if only short lived, when the organization first starts spending money on it. That is to say, immediately after the first idea or concept is posited, and then someone officially starts (and is paid!) to examine the benefits and consequences. A good start would be to persuade the Project Management Institute to redefine "project Management" away from the management of a single project. Instead, define project management simply and clearly as follows:
"Project Management is the totality of managing projects throughout the organization and at all levels."
Peter then goes on to answer the question:
"What do I mean by Deconstructing? 'Deconstruction' has acquired a specific meaning in literary, philosophical and sociological analysis following the work of Jacques Derrida from 1967 onwards."
Well, that's good to know. For more on that, you can look up Jacques Derrida on the Internet.
Peter apparently has recently (2011) proposed that the framework of "Management of Projects" should consist of three levels:
- Level 1, the technical core, is pre-eminently delivery oriented. It is concerned with the management of the project's technical operations. ... The key concern is with how to deliver projects efficiently
- Level 2, the project's strategic wrap, looks at managing projects as organizational "whole" entities, (1) expanding the domain to include their front-end development and definition and (2) protecting the technical core from environmental turbulence. This is the 'Management of Projects' conceptualization.
- Level 3, the "institutional" Level 3 is about influencing and managing, as far as one is able, the context within which the project, and other projects and programs, occurs in order to enhance their effectiveness. Management at Level 3 is primarily concerned with improving long-term project success ... [Thus] the focus switches "from organizations in their environment to the organization of the environment".
Such a construct looks highly attractive, even if only from an academic and teaching perspective. It digs deep into the typical organizational hierarchy, and heralds the direction that this author is heading. But one thing should be clear, the lowly project manager can hardly be held responsible for the intentions emanating from the "institutional" Level 3. While Peter's structure probably has academic merit, in practical terms we see a more useful organizational structure, working upwards, as:
- Project Level
- Program Level
- Project Portfolio Management Level
- Corporate Executive Management
- Corporate Board of Directors
Each has its own modus operandi and each provides the governance for the one below.
In the second part of this paper next month, we will go a little further in
discussing PART 2 of Peter's book, then followed
by What We Liked - Part 3, our Downside
view, and final Summary.
14. Ibid, 116
15. Try it on the Readability Calculator at www.online-utility.org/english/readability_test_and_improve.jsp
16. The subject of Part 3 of Peter's book.
17. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Fifth Edition, Project management Institute, PA, 2013, Glossary, p554
18. R. Max Wideman, October 2014.
19. Ibid, p116
20. See for example: wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Derrida
21. Ibid, pp117-118, described in part only, with emphasis added.