Unlearning Project Management

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I'm investigating some ways to spread the contents of this blog more widely using Technorati. I might as well start here:

I have been, over the past month, developing a series of articles for Projects@Work entitled Unlearning Project Management. The first in this series was published last week to varied critical reception; mostly, it seems, quite critical. My editor there didn't report any death threats, but he did say that several people recommended that he black ball me from further contribution. He said he'd stick with me through this series, hoping that I might "win over a few of my critics" by the time I've finished the series.

What IS my problem with project management as I see it increasingly practiced? Here's some background from an email exchange with one of the critics of the first installment:

Here's something like a root foundation beneath my assertion. Over the past decade, I have visited dozens of companies struggling to deliver project results. The PMBoK-addicted ones seem to struggle much more. I know this says nothing about the PMBoK, but a lot about how people interpret PMBoK. Perhaps if it was titled, "Some Potentially Useful Project Management Information" this imprinting would be less severe. And, honestly, the problem imprint is rarely at the project manager level, but several levels above that. Executive edict commands that projects will henceforth be managed according to some Hoyle's model, and people within the organization just shut down their natural ability to pick and choose what seems right for their context in favor of pleasing their management. The stories proliferate (most falsely) that if they fail to live up to the promise of PMBoK by choosing differently, they'll be fired (or worse, whatever that might be.) So then their projects are saddled with the obligation to both do their projects "right" AND deliver results. The disconnect is not lost on many, but the disconnect is not easily reconnected.

I have seen many, many, many projects expend more energy failing to fulfill high church expectations that are inappropriate to the scale of their engagements. And lose connection to what works there in the process. So, I'm not on a rail against PMBoK, but, as you'll see in upcoming parts of the series, about how people, in the presence of the """Body Of Knowledge""" respond as if in the presence of something smarter, more knowledgeable, than they already are.

Napoleon claimed that the pursuit of perfection was the greatest evil. I think my moral outrage at the continuous improvement mindset is somehow rooted in this observation.

So, I'm trying to reconnect people to their natural genuis, the one that pre-dates their innocent adoption of an essentially mechanical mindset, which insisted that work is about process and process-improvement, and not about organic human interaction. This is a tough sell, and an even tougher 'think.' Once imprinted on a frame of reference, it's next to impossible to consider any other way; and even more difficult, this experience is teaching me, to explain an alternative in any way that makes sense from within the imprinted frame of reference. I teach about dissolving dilemmas, and I've adopted a dandy one here.

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