Saturday, August 20, 2011

A reason to be

I scanned through a 'learned paper' the other day, and frankly I was not impressed with the argument. But the author made a couple of interesting points about the breadth of "reasons to be" vis a vis business projects.

Here's a digest of "reasons to be"
  • as integrating mechanisms enabling cross-functional integration
  • as contractual arrangements between markets and hierarchies
  • as time-limited teams working towards stipulated deadlines
  • as temporary organizations with distinctive characteristics vs the permanent organization
  • as effective tools in organizing product development
  • as the natural work form in [high tech] companies
  • and as the core units of analysis for understanding the production of high cost, complex products and systems, so called “CoPS”

And you might ask: What did you not agree with? Answer: the author's premise that "projects are an island" and that managers and executives fail to connect projects to the larger business context. The author says:
Contemporary thinking on project management is thus grounded in a lonely project perspective. Both textbooks and research literature primarily discuss individual projects. The perspective is from the inside. The dominant unit of analysis is one project at a time, the time frame is, at maximum, the life cycle of one individual project, and the dominant level of analysis is the individual project and sometimes the individual PM. In this perspective, the players and actions of the environment do not appear in their own right, rather through their relationship with the project in question. The historical and organizational contexts of the project are taken for granted, or simply not included in the analysis

If the author is talking about the PMBOK Guide and other generic project management literature, he's right. There's no way the PMBOK Guide can go much beyond explaining a general approach, and most of that explanation is given to planning, the one activity that is more or less ubiquitous.

But in real situations, I say: Nonsense! That's not my experience and I doubt it's the experience of many. When you're spending other people's money [OPM], they care, and they insist that performance is in the domain and personality and value system of the business.

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