Over the next several blogs, I will be addressing the importance of project management as a leadership discipline and its role in the tactical execution of strategic vision. I will be addressing the misconceptions of project management, the damage it continues to do and how to overcome and change those misconceptions. I am going to start with an experience from several years ago that I described in our newsletter as part of my section “In the Trenches” with Bill Stewart. It highlights a problem that still exists and I hope that I have provided an analogy that will be helpful to you.
A few years ago, I had was having a one on one conversation with a corporate strategic planning professional. We had been conducting our experiential-based project management training and certification program for his organization and over 200 project managers had been through the intense training to-date. I was describing the significant improvements that had been measured in the project success rate after only a few months of training. He interrupted my excitement with this interesting comment, “Bill, there are many cylinders in the engine of a corporation and project management is just one of them”. In retrospect, he may have been protecting the importance of his area of expertise, strategic planning, by downplaying importance of project management. But, his response underscored a serious problem that continues today. Too many professionals still do not understand that project management is the leadership discipline that ensures the successful execution of strategic vision.
I responded, “without successful execution, strategy is only shelf ware”. But, in hindsight, it would have been better to have taken his analogy for a test ride with him on board. I would have agreed that a corporation’s engine is made up of a lot of different cylinders (functional areas) that must work in unison to move the organization forward. Yes, the Program Management Office could be considered a cylinder just as other functional areas like Marketing, IT, Manufacturing, Operations and Finance are cylinders. But, just as an engine uses oil flowing from cylinder to cylinder to ensure smooth operation and prevent failure, project management process is used consistently within functional organizations and across organizations to ensure the successful execution of strategic vision. It is the “oil” or leadership discipline for strategic execution. It cannot be stove piped. And just as we use the same grade of oil i.e. WD 40 across all cylinders, we use the same consistent approach to project management across the corporation as well. Just as the proper oil mitigates the risk of engine failure, project management process when applied consistently across the organization mitigates the risk of strategic failure. Hope you enjoyed this test ride. Try this analogy next time someone downplays the importance of project management process to an organization’s success. Good luck and continue to “Lead the Way”