I am periodically asked why, as a project manager of 25 years, I say so little about project management in my speaking and writing. The reason is that a tremendous amount has already been said and written about current “good practice” in managing projects. There are countless groups and forums that discuss and expand on this traditional practice knowledge. There is much of this practice that I agree with and little addition useful contribution I can make.
Where I believe that far too little has been said and that a fundamental shift in our project thinking is required is outside what we currently believe about traditional project management.
I’ve been struck by how consistently I see, read and hear that price (or expenditure) and service are a zero-sum game – to increase (or maintain) service, the price must go up; to reduce price, the service levels must go down. Our politicians tell us that to maintain levels of social service (without ballooning deficits) they need to increase sources of tax revenue, or, vice versa, depending on the political message du jour. Businesses that operate in price-competitive markets often look to find their customers’ point of pain…what services can be reduced, eliminated, or made “cost adders” before the customer cries foul and takes their business elsewhere.
Today’s business world tends to value activity over accomplishment – we look to ensure our people are “being productive”, highly utilised, busy. However, in the business of busyness, doing lots of things doesn’t necessarily mean that we are completing those things. There comes a point where additional activity starts to mean that instead of creating more business value, you actually create less. It is by matching the organisation’s capacity to the most important activities that you accomplish more and get better business outcomes.
Businesses over the last 30 years have learned to respond to changing economic climates, competitive pressures and market conditions in large transformational steps. Organisational re-engineering and change management – as well as a number of spin-off approaches – have been developed and refined over this same period to enable this incremental step change approach. Read more →
Inspired by the LinkedIn series on Big Ideas 2016, I have devoted my final blog of the year to my perspective on what I believe will be #BigIdeas2016 – Adaptation Management.
Change management has been around as a business process since the 1980s and is so entrenched in our organisational approach that it is now being taught as part of the curriculum in many business schools. Although not solely, a large part of change management principle and practice is focused on the people side of change – managing people’s resistance to the change we are trying to make. The relatively poor success rate of this attempt to “push” change past people’s natural inclination to resist it, has resulted in the perspective where there is a need to lead change so that you “pull” people on the change journey. Read more →
A couple of years ago I was asked to participate in a business improvement initiative by one of my contractor clients. The initiative was intended to create better process and structure around their project management systems with a particular focus on project controls. After an initial kick-off meeting which included the executive sponsor, the improvement team met several more times before the momentum faded and the initiative eventually died.
A number of things struck me about this experience. Read more →
Projects represent one of the most powerful ways to harness collective human capability. Bringing people together in service of a common set of objectives around a defined scope for a prescribed duration – the very nature of projects – can have a catalysing effect. It can create an environment where engaged and motivated teams thrive. The shared purpose and the tangible goals can allow a team of people to deliver ten-fold more business value than the sum of the individuals. Read more →
We tend to think of leadership as something that the head of a group or team provides to those under their charge – direction, inspiration, motivation, vision, and decisive decision-making – a package of skills that managers need to possess if they are to lead people. These traditional leadership activities are what I refer to as “transactional leadership”. Transactional leadership qualities are absolutely necessary and have their time and place but their impact is relatively short-lived and can create a level of dependency on the leader. When a tough decision is required, it is shunted to the project manager; when direction is required, the team look for it to be given rather than forging it for themselves; when inspiration is needed, the team waits for it to come rather than creating it. Read more →
In the current complex and dynamic business environment where disruptive forces abound and competition is fierce, it is more important than ever to have a workforce that is engaged and motivated in a way that makes your people the organisation’s competitive advantage. Yet we still consistently see organisations that view their businesses like complicated machines and the people in them as components of the overall machinery. To make this machinery run smoothly – to get people doing what we want them to do when you want them doing it – they believe they need to reward desirable behaviour and punish unwanted behaviour. Read more →
Recent events in Australia’s political arena and the carefully crafted speech of the new Prime Minister got me thinking about the similarities in challenges that are presented to a new government and to those of business leaders. In his speech, Malcolm Turnbull spoke of “digital disruption” being Australia’s friend; the need for agility, innovation and creativity in creating a vision of the future; the power of collaborative leadership in making high value decisions; and about the importance of explaining the “why” and “how” of meeting the challenges of tomorrow so that everyone comes on the journey with their leadership. These are all very powerful memes in current, cutting edge management thinking. Read more →