The fifth installment of my Unlearning Project Management series has been posted online. Here's the link.
"In a recent conversation, Howell remarked, “Current project controls increase risk in projects ... external risk is rarely the killer. Things most often go wrong because of the wreckage caused by the feedback and control used in current PM: control for cost, squeeze ‘em down, and the people will find a way to do just what you ask — reduce the immediate cost of their work. This reduces the predictability of workflow in the system, further reducing performance. Hazing managers in response to further cost increases puts projects into the death spiral.”
I wish I could claim credit for the snappy title, but that is the work of P@W's fine editor, Aaron Smith.
The picture accompanying this posting comes from the final exercise of our Mastering Projects Workshop, where after two and a half days deeply considering how projects work, participants are assigned a planning exercise where traditional Management By Planning approaches fail. Few groups fail to create meaning with this experience, and none who succeed do so in ways they imagined beforehand. This installment considers alternatives to Management By Planning.
The first two installments generated a lot of comments. This one hasn't. Don't know why, but I'll appreciate any bark-back you might feel moved to post there.
Here's a taste of the content:"Management By Planning, carried to its naturally recursive root, enlists every member of a project’s community as a planning project manager, which is far from Fayol and Taylor’s original Management By Planning intent. Each interprets the plan they receive, producing a locally situated version. Whether the plan received is wise depends, again, upon the mindfulness of each situated planner. Whether the project manager is wise might depend more upon their ability to listen than their authority to dispatch pre-planned work assignments.
"In the Spanish viceroy system, a bureaucracy that lasted more than 500 years, each viceroy reported directly to the king. Communications being slow in those days, a dispatch from the king, responding to a viceroy’s report, could take more than a year to reach an individual viceroy. So, the viceroys adopted a simple rule for interpreting directions from the king — The King Is Wise. This rule encouraged each local viceroy to interpret the king’s direction in some way that would preserve the apparent wisdom of the king, even if this meant utterly changing his specific instructions."
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: