This expands upon points raised in a post at JimMillikenProject.blogspot.com on March 15, 2011
Organized human endeavor is a fine thing, an essential thing. That’s why we have companies, cities, schools, fraternal organizations. Coordinated behavior makes things happen that could not exist any other way.
The various assemblages work out ways to make their things happen, and they pay attention to those that work ever more effectively. As they succeed over time, they institutionalize those methods, support them with formal and informal cultures, enforce violations of the accepted norms.
This is proper and necessary. When such measures eventually become ineffective, healthy organizations reform, cleanse themselves and redirect their processes. Sometimes they do this incrementally, sometimes with severe “creative destructive/reconstruction” episodes
. It takes wise and powerful leadership to understand the need, to design proper responses and to conduct the change successfully. That is because the organization does not take well to change. Anything outside the defined way of doing business has always been seen as a bad thing.
This is true even when the change is demonstrably good and necessary. Sometimes the need is not seen by all, and/or the change is not acceptable. Everything seems to have been going well, or at least well enough. Why not leave well enough alone?
The disapproval can be expressed in a number of different ways, from avoidance and passivity all the way to active hostility. Good organizations pull it off anyway. They know that if they don’t respond, or don’t respond properly, they will decline and die.
So the company, group, whatever progresses, navigates the rapids, survives the challenges, grows its leadership, builds its structure, populates its positions, develops its culture.
Project management is the methodology designed precisely to carry out complex innovations, whatever their type or purpose. It is employed when there is risk in the projected activity – risk arising from issues of cost, schedule and lack of assurance regarding the complexities of this strange new venture.
The essence of project management is antithetical to the DNA of its sponsoring organization, but vital to its future. While the regular daily rhythms of organizational life ensure the organization’s current survival, its projects are vital to its growth in a changing, competitive, unforgiving world.
Now the established organization needs something it doesn’t already have. It needs to find, develop, build something new. An innovation. So it must mount a creative effort. A project. Too often, organizations do not have prepared processes for this. They may not even have a philosophy that accommodates such a thing.
We’re all familiar with the history of great ideas, launched into reality by committed people, that crashed and burned because the essential organization and/or subsequent process management were inadequate. That keeps happening because people enter new worlds with old assumptions. Their processes don’t bridge the unknown because they never stretch beyond the known.
This happens in big corporations just as often as in tiny start-ups and moderate-sized small businesses. It’s in the nature of the critter. Entrepreneurial organizations must eventually mature into process-driven fulfillment machines, but they can’t start that way.
When project management is taken seriously, the organization develops appropriate processes for it, including those that identify from the start activities that really are projects.
Organizational strategies are properly researched, well established and generally followed. Resources are managed on an enterprise level, assuring that projects do not get starved as shiny new prospects appear. Executives and senior managers take responsibility for their roles in supporting projects. Risk management is planned and observed.
In short, the organization consciously installs project management as a regular and recognized process, along with all the others. It remixes its DNA so handling unpredictability is just another day at the office.