Jan 25, 2009

Call Me Crazy ...

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Culture & Change Management, Project & Program Management, Site News | 0 Comments

... but I seem to be facing the New Year - and the news cycle - with a sense of unreasonable optimism. Partly this is because I've been paging through all my favorite business and projects news sources deciding what to put in our blogroll (check it out in the right-hand column!) There are some really smart people writing about what's just ahead for projects in the current economic situation, and they can't all be wrong. The guardedly expressed good news falls under three general headings:

1. "Project Management Eats Economic Downturn for Breakfast."

2.  "Innovation Eats Recession for Breakfast."

3. "Green/Alternative Economy Fixes Breakfast for the Planet. Chai, Anyone?"

There's also, of course, a healthy serving of gloom and doom. Most of it, though, reminds me of something my father once said. Born in 1911, he was one of the last of the hot-type typographers - a craft with tools and methods pretty much unchanged for 400 years. When the little specialty shop where he plied his antique trade finally closed, and he had to learn computer typesetting (in his sixties), he hated it. But, as a game survivor of two World Wars and the Great Depression, he told me philosophically, "when the automobile came along, the wheelwrights and harness makers had to learn something new or go out of business. That's life."

Indeed. That said, life can be pretty rough on us when we refuse to recognize which of our self-defeating behaviors need changing. It's tempting to believe that, because "business as usual" allowed us to have several decades of world-beating economic success, that the way we do business is the right way ... the only way.

Project management has been somewhat of a corporate underdog for most of its history. One of the themes that I often heard among attendees at PMI conferences or our own Benchmarking Forums was, "We can't get the C-level to listen to us!" That's been changing in the last five years, as more and more companies implement PMOs at the enterprise level, and apply project portfolio management discipline as a tool for strategic execution. That's why the present global economic situation - what Steve Forbes recently termed "a perfect storm" of conditions affecting nearly all sectors of the economy in nearly every nation - offers those skilled in practicing the discipline and mindset of "managing by projects" a unique opportunity. Project leaders are poised to have the ear of executives, thanks to their tireless trudge up from the trenches - but also are still somewhat "outsiders," with views just different enough to offer the kind of systemic change companies need. It's a shame that we had to reach near-collapse before the wisdom of project leaders could get a full hearing at the highest levels of business but - as one wise man said - "that's life."

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