My Project is Alive

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.


I’ve really been enjoying reading the 3-part article by Larry Peterson “Living Projects” – having earned my stripes as a software development project manager I am well aware of the conflict between the theory and practise of planning and scheduling a project from start to finish and the realities of software development.


The development of the Agile method of project management was the software developers’ response to years of being forced into a waterfall method for their projects, and I have much sympathy for them (having been one for many years myself).


But methods such as Agile are something different from what Larry is advocating when he refers to Living Projects. His view is that projects should be “organic” – not exactly to have a life of their own but to be able to grow, develop and evolve for success in the same way as living species.


Many complex projects involve a cultural change as well as new systems, services or products and when changes are required to how we have always done things, or viewed things, it is almost impossible to predict how that should happen in advance. It might involve establishing new working relationships, or altering existing ones, and those affected may be resistant to the change.


But as a complex project progresses it becomes easier to see how solutions can be found for the changes that personally affect people. So a project that is adaptable and can grow and develop over time will lead to a more successful outcome.


And just as young livings beings (animals and humans) make mistakes, learn and grow into more successful adults so projects (given the funding and support) should be allowed to make mistakes to come out at the end with a better result. Instead, in business, mistakes are usually seen as failure rather than an opportunity to learn and improve.


If the stakeholders and project manager do have the foresight to understand that mistakes can be a route to growing, developing and improving, then those involved in a project must also have the commitment and ability to respond in an agile way to changes in the project environment (more about Agile next time). Then a project can be invested with vitality and achieve genuine success.


It seems that focusing on the successes of the past to learn and grow, just as living systems do, is more beneficial to the outcome of a project than focusing on the mistakes and problems, which only leads to a culture of blame. So maybe if more of us viewed our projects as living organisms then the successful evolution of project management might be more assured.


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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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