The Infinite Process Search
The IT Project Management world is full of processes. Each one tends to enjoy its time in the sun before being replaced by the next process and its promise of success. Some examples include Total Quality Management (TQM), Rational Rose, Spiral, Six Sigma, Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), Lean, Various Agiles, and ITIL. In the moment there seems to be a trend of hybrid and refined processes that are making the same claims the earlier ones made; “if you learn and follow this process, then you will deliver consistently successful results.” In practice, none have fully lived up to this promise.
This consistent failure from process to process breeds some questions. Why don’t they live up to their promise? Why do project managers continue adopting each new process that appears? What is the ultimate goal of this infinite process search? It is probable that each process is an attempt to capture the practices and methods of experienced and successful people. Therefore, the promise of each process is that they are a shortcut to effectiveness. The failure of people attempting to implement these processes is that they generally do not fully take into account that project management is hard to do and that experience is essential. Anyone can learn to follow the steps to a new process, however only experience can inform someone when a project is going well or not. Experience is necessary to understand what the other members of the project team are communicating. Experience is necessary to understand the impacts of situations that arise, and most importantly, experience is necessary to know how to navigate the team through those impacts.
In this vein, it would be beneficial for project managers to refocus how they look at their profession. Project management is something that takes constant preparation and requires opportunities to develop skills. I agree with PMI’s approach; there is a Body of Knowledge that project managers should know and then experience is required to know when and how to apply that knowledge. Unfortunately, many people view the Body of Knowledge as a process guide. This ends up with a PM creating an unwieldy waterfall process for all projects, great and small. As a profession, there is a need to learn to separate core knowledge and skills from process so that we can properly develop future project managers.
What is the impact of this for businesses?
It depends on the ultimate goal. If a business wants to build a robust group of project managers, then create a project management practice that focuses on pairing newer project managers with experienced ones in an apprenticeship program. This way, a core group of experienced project managers can evaluate various processes and determine what works best for different situations within that particular business. If a business wants to bring in outside contractors to manage projects, then they should avoid project managers with only a year or two of experience in most situations. A quality project manager with skills developed through experience will save a business more money through their ability to deliver projects efficiently, than their higher bill rate will cost.
Anexinet is a leading professional consulting and services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions around digital disruption, analytics (and big data), and hybrid and private cloud strategies. Anexinet brings insight into how technology will impact how business decisions will be made and how our clients interact with their customers in the future.
Ian Scott, IScott@anexinet.com