"You are the most powerful project management
tool you will ever use"
The Mastering Projects Approach
True North’s project guidance strategies bring a practical, personal, layer
of understanding that anyone can apply to any project. They help each project
participant define a set of principles that animate and empower their project
work beyond simple planning, tracking, and controlling, to produce exceptional
Projects embody the entrepreneurial function of our organizations.
They are how we create new products, new technologies, and new futures
for our companies. Projects are fundamentally different from ongoing operations.
On-going operations require stability, consistency, and predictability.
Projects demand adaptability, creativity, and discovery. Operations respond
to management controls. Projects require leadership of an entirely
So why do we continue to disappoint ourselves by applying operations
style management techniques
in unsuccessful attempts to reform our projects?
Traditional project management methods are modeled after management
approaches designed to optimize on-going operations. These methods assume
conditions that are rarely, if ever, fully present in today’s project contexts:
Stable and controllable internal and external environments
Predictable, consistent, and schedule-able inputs
Easily exchangeable, readily available resources
Known methods and tools
A known and unambiguous sequence of specific tasks
Known, fully specified output
The purpose of most projects is to create something that has never
existed before within a very different set of conditions:
Dynamic and uncontrollable environments driven by rapidly changing customer,
market, and resource demands
Conflicting requirements, creeping scope, and unreasonable demands
Emerging technology, methods, and tools (or at least novel applications
of known methods and tools)
Scarce, specialized skills held by key individuals with strong personalities
Uncertain journeys to unknown destinations, in uncharted territories
Shifting, ambiguous, and conflicting objectives
The mismatch between the operational orientation of traditional
project management and the real-world needs of innovation is the source
of most commonly encountered project difficulties. In an operational context,
efficiency -- the comparison of one iteration of the production cycle to
another -- is a meaningful measure. In project work the search for
operational efficiency leads us to engage in absurd behaviors such as:
The conflicts between our operational understanding of good work and the
ground-level demands of project work leave us tangled in unresolvable paradoxes,
resulting in death march efforts, disappointed customers, discouraged contributors,
frustration, and failure. It does not need to be this way.
Planning and estimating the unknowable
Staying courses simply because the plan says we should
The Mastering Projects approach makes explicit these differences
between operations, and project work. These explicit understandings
provide the foundation for addressing the source of project difficulties
and discovering more useful project guidance strategies. These strategies
provide access to powerful, personal tools for more effectively coping
with the unavoidable, real challenges of project work.
Our Mastering Projects approach proposes models for project work
distinctly different from the hierarchical, operational-control models
so often employed by traditional project management. Our models provide
individuals with the insight they need to succeed in this often baffling
project context, even when they are not responsible for managing the overall
Our Mastering Projects offerings include the Mastering
Project Workshop and Mastering
The Mastering Project Work
workshop helps each member of a project community, especially the project
workers, find their own power and authority to make the project work.
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