A New Generation Of Thinking – It isn’t (just) about projects

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Project thinking has been dominated over the last 50 years by writings that are myopic.

The perspective has been “unique temporary endeavour bounded by an iron triangle of cost time and performance of delivered output” whose interplay can be reduced to a time-scaled bar-chart.

The thinking required to isolate and describe the concepts and build the toolkit has brought us a long way and we must both be grateful to the thinkers who brought us thus far and recognise that their thinking is ultimately inadequate to consistently reliable delivery of even fairly simple projects. It is time to stand on the shoulders of those giants and describe what we can see as a result of the improved perspective.

Reality is an organisation is a complex adaptive system that coalesces around a body of capital. Capital is expressed across culture, know how, plant and facilities and money. It is the role of the executives in stewardship (or agency) to ensure at least continuity if not growth of capital.

Care of capital is likely achieved through the executive’s actions as leaders when directing management to operate or amend process. Routine use of process generates revenue (benefit) from use of capital. Operational management’s role is continuity of process across changes in context while project management’s role is adjustment or replacement of process in the face of context changes to respond to threat and opportunity.

The protein interaction network of Treponema pallidum

Interconnections In a Complex Adaptive System = Influence

Each level of the organisation gives instruction (constraint) and resource to the level below. The very bottom level creates value that is used to compensate all levels for their involvement. The whole is a decision making structure whose operation is dependant on the ability of those ‘above’ to both cascade vision and to receive and deal with escalation.

The mechanisms, models, tools, techniques, frameworks and structures that equip us with capability to preserve capital are thus broader, deeper and wider that prince2 and msp. They include the means to describe vision in the context of marketplace influence on mission and values, to integrate the sociological and psychological truths of people and groups and teams and cultures into the expression of direction and actions and outcomes.

The 50 year perspective may have seen ‘project’ more or less correctly but those thinkers did not see programme with the clarity possible now and needed. Thus they also fall short when dealing with portfolio.

Interestingly industry tends to ‘do portfolio’ intuitively and not as project thinkers describe it. When wide appreciation of how to clearly describe a line-of-sight from BoardRoom-2-BoilerRoom™ across investment’s end2end timeframe is in place many factors become obvious – For example training individuals to pass exams is not the best way to create competence in what is fundamentally collaborative in nature.