Putting Project Management in its Place: the Business Agile Perspective

     Donna Fitzgerald

For the last 20 years certain professional societies have stressed the importance of every organization understanding the value of project management. Apparently the theory was that organizations needed to already believe in the value project management before a PM could actually deliver value. The concept of believe first, see value later is coming under attack in IT. Many organizations are embracing the notion that a scrum master can provide all of the value of a PM with virtually none of the paperwork. Of course this isn’t true but if we aren’t careful about how we as PM professionals respond to this challenge there is a real possibility of the baby getting thrown out with the bathwater if we aren’t careful.

With this situation in mind I’d like to suggest that there are two things we as a global community need to start doing immediately.

The first is to reject the myth that organizations need to embrace the value of project management for its own sake. All organizations already embrace the concept of leadership in achieving results. For whatever reason we seemed to have missed the power of this assumption. I was once speaking with a CEO about why he might want to invest in hiring some PMs since by doing so they could provide him with real time decision making in order to get things done. Upon hearing this he excitedly turned to the CIO and said “Now that’s the kind of person I do want you to hire, not whatever else you were talking about.”

I freely admit I’ve never understood the need to sell PM. It’s a disciplined approach to getting complex and risky work done. There are lots of group processes to ensure that everyone is marching in the same direction and there are real time practices that deal with when to apply “control” to keep things going along a planned course of action and when to embrace “change” and tack the sales to keep the project on course. The value of project management is measured by results. The practices of project management either helps the team and the stakeholders achieve those results or they are just bureaucratic wastes of time.

The second is to practice the discipline of project management quietly.  Our “back office” practices should stay in the back office. Either a schedule is necessary or it’s not. Either a definition of scope is necessary or it’s not. If we, individually, can’t discuss with clarity the reason why collectively thinking through how we are going to manage an important piece of work that will cost a lot of money – then maybe we’re the wrong person to lead the team. The paperwork and the process has never been the focus of real project management. To be blunt 90% of it is CYA and bureaucracy, and neither of those practices are capable of moving at digital speed.

If anything I’ve written here sounds difficult to do or harsh in its tone given your current circumstance then please don’t take it as


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