Back to School: Projects and Project Management (Re) Defined

November 3rd marks International Project Management Day  #IPMDay2016. The theme of the “Leading with agility and embracing change” conference, we are celebrating this day with the Project Management Institute (PMI) at NITIE , one of the top ten business schools in India.

One eminent speaker discussed the need to keep our project management principles intact despite living in a world of digital disruption. As the guest speaker, I looked around at the fresh, enthusiastic minds present and hit the rewind button back to my MBA days at IISWBM while taking a class on project management.

Taking a Step Back: Projects and Management Redefined:

“What is a project?” was the first question asked in my project management class so many years ago.  As I pose the same question to my audience, I find a lot enthusiastic hands going up.  A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. Project management represents the skills and techniques used to ensure that projects are achieved within cost, scope, and schedule: the so-called “triple constraints.” The definitions remain the same; they have not changed even though the world is on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution.

If we are constrained by the triple constraint, how do we as project managers lead with agility and embrace the change?

Solve a problem: a project starts with the need to solve a problem. For example, the iPhone exists because there was a need for a singular device to do many tasks for people.

Business Value: check what value it can add to the customer. This value goes beyond the financial value and includes learning, growth, internal process, and emotional value.

Principles: these represent what the project needs to do in order to change or maintain the system. Some examples include Lean, Kanban, SCRUM, and XP.

Practices: what does the project team need to do to ensure that we create the value? This could be looking at continuous delivery and test driven development.

Tools: the last step, this is what we use to get the work done more efficiently, could be using CHEF, puppet, and other.

Spine Model

If projects are all about needs and values, then project management should be the tools and techniques to  achieve this value. So is it not time to redefine project management? Should we not move away from the iron triangle to the value triangle?

Iron Triangle To Value Triangle

We now deliver value and quality, which speeds up the development process, making it viable for future enhancements. This makes us truly agile, even though we are still working within the triple constraints (Scope, Cost, and Schedule). It is not that these constraints are not important, but they are no longer the goal of the project. The agile triangle helps us to move from being Predictive and Plan-driven to Adaptive and Value-driven

A Step Forward: Projects and Management (Re) Defined: 

Projects drive change and project managers are change agents. Project management is the tools and techniques to deliver value.

As I stepped away from the dais, like a true agilest, I retrospect. Did I deliver my talk within the triple constraint effectively?  Was I able to deliver value to the enthusiastic next-gen project managers? I remember I had to skip a couple of slides, reducing the scope so as not to exceed the 20 mins assigned to me. It was at this time that I heard the chief guest quoting my presentation of adaptive and value driven delivery as one of the more constructive sessions of the day and one that left him speechless. I turned around to see the faculty and the students nod in agreement.  Apparently, no one seemed to mind the reduction in scope because whatever I said enhanced the value of my presentation.

While my presentation provided insight on value driven project management, students and faculty raised a few questions post-session, including the following:

·        What is the most essential factor to encourage organizations to adapt value- driven delivery?

·         How are you preparing for tomorrow’s economy to ensure that you are steering projects towards fulfilling business value?

·         How can we be adaptive in industries like construction and manufacturing where upfront design is very important?

What are your thoughts on the above and about value driven delivery?

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