I’m pleased to be working with Proggio to bring you this thought-provoking article from Tzvi Zucker, Marketing Manager.
The nature of the modern business environment is constantly evolving. Project management has wrought much change. From plotting Gantt charts by hand to the modern day explosion of project management software solutions, everything is different – including the nature of work itself.
To illustrate, Roger L. Martin, former dean at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, gives an example of how work is a series of projects in an article in the Harvard Business Review:
Think of a freshly hired assistant brand manager for Olay at P&G. She may initially view her role as pretty standard: helping her boss guide the brand. However, she will quickly learn that the job is ever-changing. This month she may be working on the pricing and positioning of a brand extension. Two months later she may be totally absorbed in managing production glitches that are causing shipment delays on the biggest-selling item in the Olay lineup. Then all is quiet until the boss approaches her desk with yet another project. Within months she will figure out that her job is a series of projects that come and go, sometimes in convenient ways and sometimes not.”
If this assistant’s role sounds a lot like a project manager to you, you’re onto something. In today’s business environment, everyone is a project manager. TechRepublic covered a recent report by Planview, noting:
Even if you don’t have a formal title, training, or the credentials of a project manager, chances are you may still be expected to manage projects. According to the report, two-thirds of professionals noted that they manage projects as part of their official responsibilities—even though they don’t carry the project manager title. Additionally, some 20% of respondents defined themselves as ‘accidental’ project managers. These are folks who find themselves managing projects on top of their daily responsibilities.”
Everyone is a project manager, because the nature of modern work is project-based.
Project Management As Model
The entire way we structure organisational endeavors is through project management. In turn, project management as an industry is growing by leaps and bounds – in numbers, in salaries, and in perceived importance (see: Chartered Status in the UK, for example). In a positive development, project management is being brought down to the educational level and being taught in schools. Truly, the world is changing, and for the better.
This change happened fast enough that common sense wisdom has not had a chance to catch up. After all, it wasn’t always this way! We are used to thinking of the workplace with an outdated mental model – the manufacturing line. The manufacturing line is a linear process, that follows a simple, repeating, input-to-output plan. Each person on the line has a repeating task, that is their job. It defines what they do. The process is easily broken down to stops and stations, and each of those stops becomes a person in a job doing a task.
When operating correctly, the inputs are combined into the desired output, again and again, as needed. Production lines can be conceived of as waterfall flow charts. They’re simple, linear, and workflow based.
In the modern business environment, endeavors aren’t linear. Organisations don’t manufacture output with a manufacturing line process. They create projects, with inputs from various and often far flung places.
The output of a project isn’t always easily quantifiable. Projects have goals, not outputs. These projects can sometimes be one-off initiatives. Sometimes they repeat at regular intervals. But never do they follow the simplistic, linear, in to out model of a production line.
Project management can be conceived of as an airline route map. The project manager is the hub that connects all the spokes. Projects have many different “here to there” linear lines, and not all of them overlap. But they all end up in the same place, for the same goal. And this means that the skill set needed to succeed in the modern business environment is changing, too.Click for more