A Project’s Pace of Progress is Down to the Behaviour of it’s Players
Project’s players – all those who share responsibility for a project’s results, frequently find themselves in places and situations that could not have been anticipated. Progress then requires skilful, informed and often spirited dialogue. Able conversation is needed from all the players as they address issues, uncertainties, ambiguity and controversy. Critical choices have to be made; relying on the players’ engagement of issues and the shrewdness of a mature professional community.Managing a project can be compared to leading an expedition. Social engagement and collaboration between the players is mission-critical and ultimately the only way to advance the work. Projects must often make their way through virgin territory where, in contrast with a business process, many of the routes have to be discovered before they can be followed. Players are needed for their specialist professional contribution but also for their participation in the community of players. They have to shape both project direction and the form of organisation that each situation demands. Here, community-play, as well as team-play is important; as is the thinking, leadership and individual contributions of every player.
Willing and professionally able
In such ‘swampy lowlands’, dealing with emergent and unexpected issues, process prescriptions have little to offer and the values and routines of a work-place culture will maneuver much of players’ behaviour: favourably or unfavourably. In such situations, Methodology offers little to aid navigation. It will be the quality of the player’s thinking, dialogue, organisation and resolve, exercised through the leadership of players that will decide the outcome.
While the competences of project players are important; more than this is required of the organisation. Project management depends on a culture that embraces patterns of venturesome behaviour with imagination, shared values, conversation, leadership, determination, compromise, adaptability, engagement and collaboration. These are vital features of the project players’ regime and are at least as important.
Patterns of human and organisational behaviour
My contention is that project successes and failures are always attributable to human and organisational behaviour, more than to the choices of methodology. The field that maps project management behaviour is hugely eclectic and wide-ranging. It includes innovation, carelessness, persistence, leadership, naivety, oversight, denial, social interaction, ambition, engagement, discipline, collaboration, political adroitness and courage. Professionals need to show venturesome human and organisational behaviour, as well as be able to deploy the process-based methodologies and other schemas, now well established in many project regimes.
At the APM Conference in 2010, both Martin Barnes, the association President and Peter Gershon, an experienced business executive and the founder of the UK’s Office of Government Commerce, suggested that many of the causes of project failure today are ‘boring and repetitive’. They were censoring the project management community and questioning the ability of its practitioners to meet today’s project management challenges. Examination of project failures indicates that errors are being repeated; revealing persistent and consistent weakness. A ‘New wave’ project management is needed to answer the pleas of these gurus.
A new book from Gower
To purchase the book, please visit the website.
Martin’s new book ‘The Single-Minded Project has recently been published, with wide-spread applause by the project management world. Here are some quotes from a recent book review.
“In Price’s view, no single methodology is capable of harnessing the necessary capabilities that organizations and individuals draw upon when successfully delivering transformational change through the agency of projects.”
“To get a fresh perspective on what is going on inside a project, Price introduces some new terms to renovate and redefine some overly familiar concepts. This is not done simply for the sake of novelty, but to emphasize particular characteristics embedded within those concepts that are relevant to the picture of project management that Price lays out.”
The full review can be read by clicking here.