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Last week, those of us in the United States celebrated Thanksgiving. As I juggled the normal workload and a few extra projects with the holiday preparations, I challenged myself to sit down and think about the project management trends for which I am thankful. Whether you live in the U.S. or not, the first one is a particularly good reason to say thanks!

Neuroscience research increasingly supports the fact that gratitude is healthy. It’s also good for team building.

How does gratitude factor into team dynamics? For starters, it improves team functioning and personal happiness. A recent study at Cornell found that people tend to be more grateful for positive experiences over the acquisition of possessions. That bodes well for project teams that are having good times together. Set your teams up for the small wins to give you all more opportunities for gratefulness and good times, and take the time to express your gratitude frequently.

Lean thinking is starting to creep into the construction world.

From the beginning, I have focused my project management writings on the world of business projects. That is, those non-linear, unpredictable projects like strategic planning, change initiatives, marketing and advertising campaigns, research and development projects, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare.

I have omitted construction projects from my market because I was willing to believe that a Gantt chart had value. I think they may have particular value when you are working on projects with heavy needs for material deliveries that need to be carefully scheduled due to lack of storage space.

And yet, I’ve been following the interest in lean thinking in the construction world. For example:

  • The AGC Lean Construction Forum promotes dialogue on the use of lean principles in the construction industry.
  • The Lean Construction Institute has been working to bring lean principles to the construction industry for close to 20 years.
  • According to a blog by Glen Hammons, Skanska realized benefits from its use of pull planning when it built the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
  • Sellen Construction Company, a Pacific Northwest commercial construction firm, uses lean methodologies and increased transparency to improve outcomes.

Clearly, the trend towards thinking about delivering greater value to the client is increasing. What can we do to increase the number of grateful clients?

There is increasing interest in Agile thinking in mainstream project management circles.

We’ve been seeing increasing interest in Agile thinking for some years now. That’s not new. As is frequently said, this is an evolution – not a revolution. The continuing dialog is good for project managers everywhere. For starters, any efforts that improve team effectiveness are good for the bottom line. How can we deliver greater value sooner? How can we set up our projects so that we can capitalize on change?

The US Congress has passed the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act. It mandates that the OMB develop plans to improve project and portfolio management in the Federal Government.

The public is increasingly aware of problems in government projects. Any taxpayer who logged on to the site in the first few days can testify to the problems.

According to a 2015 report on high risk project investments by the US government, the Veterans Administration spent $127 million over nine years trying to replace its scheduling system. Ultimately, it abandoned the project due to “weaknesses in project management and a lack of effective oversight.” This 400-page report noted problems in many agencies. [1] p. 31

Perhaps this new legislation will get people in the Government to begin to think about reducing project waste.

For some time, I have sought to raise awareness about the need to improve project management practices. Yet, I have frequently been astounded at the number of companies that don’t see this as a problem. Either they are too busy for project management or they don’t understand some pretty important parts of project management.

It’s rare that I work on a project outside of the government arena where people are really interested in discussions about risk, lessons learned, or procurement contract requirements. I am hopeful that this new legislation will increase awareness around the benefits of solid project management.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers! I hope you enjoyed the long weekend and will continue to be grateful. If you are interested in more discussions on project management trends, check out my newsletter.