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I keep reading posts about how to reimagine project management, and I wonder about some of what I’m reading. I read in one column that all work is project work, and I stopped in my tracks. Really? I don’t think a pediatrician’s office, or a hair salon, or a restaurant would agree. But let’s take that statement as an indication that governments and businesses are thinking more and more about projects. What might it look like if we reimagined project management? In this blog, I’ll offer five important reasons that we badly need to reimagine project management now. And after we do that, we can move to reimagining all work.

1. Project failures still abound.

With all the talk of agile and project management training, and new tools arriving faster than anyone can keep up, failures are still happening. And when they happen on a large scale, massive dollars are wasted.

Rail projects in the US are particularly problematic as the California High-Speed Rail project indicates. (According to Matt Thibault, Associate Editor at Construction Dive, the estimated cost had jumped to $128B, compared to the $33B that voters approved in 2008.)  Horror stories abound, particularly on large scale projects, such as Hawaii’s continued efforts to protect Waikiki from flooding and the HS2 rail project in the UK.

And it’s not just infrastructure projects. Ron DeSantis just announced his campaign for President on Twitter, and by all accounts it was a massive failure. I don’t want to get into politics or social media. I’m only trying to make the case that there are costly project failures happening all the time.

The numbers and reports change by the day and I’m not trying to keep up with project failures. I’m more interested in whether reimagining project management entirely could help us minimize these failures and better deploy resources.

Costly project failures happen all the time. How can we reimagine project management to help? #projectmanagement #business #leadership #smartprojex Share on X

2. Executives need valid insights into how their project investments are doing.

Executives spend their days wrestling with decisions about their investments – how are their projects, people, and operational investments faring? And right now, I’m not aware of any tool that offers real-time reliable insights into those three arenas.

How can executives make sound decisions about where to deploy their resources – people, time, money, and assets? Why can’t we reimagine project management and improve work culture so that we don’t have to spy on remote employees?

A recent headline in the Richmond Times Dispatch reported: “In failed VCU Health deal, city questioned developer’s honesty.” I know the post stated that VCU was paying $73M to terminate the contract. I’m not trying to understand the ins and outs of the reporting on that fiasco, at least right now, as the story will likely take a while to fully unfold. But I’ve said for years that people are human and they really struggle to share bad news, particularly when it reflects poorly on them. Could we reimagine project management so that executives get reliable insights on their projects?

3. The lightning-fast evolution of technology presents challenges and opportunities.

When technology is evolving as fast as it is today, it becomes incredibly hard to make decisions. Do I hang my hat on this technology or another? Do I wait for the next iteration? How should I make decisions in a world where I can’t possibly stay current with every new technology?

AI is beginning to offer benefits to some businesses, and this will continue. But how do we manage the risks that come with AI? Those who think their businesses are immune have probably stuck their heads in the sand and are ignoring the red flags.

And then, one question I keep pondering is whether putting some business tools (such as a project management tool) on the blockchain would help us collaborate across the globe with people that we don’t know and trust. I have written several blogs on using the blockchain for project management.

Would it help us build corporate communities that are based on a sound collection of principles with which we agree? Could smart contracts be used to scope work packages? We could still build in agility where needed, but for large infrastructure projects, we just can’t drive project success when the individual work packages are not fully agreed on, understood, or managed. Why not track project resources (not people) on the blockchain?

4. The world has changed and will continue to change.

The world, and the people in it, have changed. Yes, there are people who will say we are still the same; that there is nothing new under the sun. I would argue that the world is very different from the world of the 1950’s. And it’s continuing to change.

Employees want autonomy, flexibility, work-from-home options, mentorship, and meaning in their work lives. Some employees are starting to work with robots on a day-to-day basis. And that will grow in the future. How will that further change what humans want? And what rights might robots want, need, or deserve?

The nature of work was changing before the pandemic hit, and it’s only gotten worse. Rapid change has caused a certain amount of numbness to how people feel. They fear the changes that they see on the horizon.

It’s harder than ever to stay focused, even if you don’t have ADHD. I cringed when I read a piece in Morning Brew about using mixed reality at work. And I was reminded of the time that I vomited while watching a movie on an IMAX screen. I wondered if this is where we are heading. How many more assaults on our brains can humans endure? Why can’t we let technology help us so that we can get back to the business of interfacing with other humans to drive progress and improve performance?  Not to mention having fun! Why can’t we reimagine project management so that people are empowered to produce great results and enjoy it in the process?

5. Projects fail in a variety of ways, yet many tools are primarily focused on just getting the tasks done.

Consider that some little projects just keep slipping because other activities become more critical. Some projects just aren’t as important, from a scheduling standpoint. Is that a concern?

Some projects have a higher profile than others. It can be quite challenging to understand the concerns of peripheral stakeholders on a project. And to identify all the key perspectives.  For example, in Hawaii, a large group of stakeholders are furious that the Federal Government has erected a massive flood wall and spoiled their beautiful landscape. Another group is furious because Waikiki is still having flooding issues after massive amounts of investments in the flood wall.

Trained project managers understand the need for fully identifying stakeholders and developing a strong risk management discipline. But not all project managers pay attention to those disciplines, and a lot of popular tools don’t offer much assistance there. At least, for now, project leaders need to personally engage with stakeholders to understand these controversial dynamics. And these dynamics can impact your risk management, as well as your communications and public relations strategy.

Then, there is the question of how project managers are managing costs when the people working on a project are paid on salary. Are projects even recognizing the true costs? Are people working on multiple projects allocating their time between projects?

There are so many questions that we can and should ask about how project work is done today, and how it could be done with better technology. How could technology help humans respond to the ever-present disruptions in the business world? Can we use technology to help us develop teams that are more resilient, empowered, and successful?

Projects fail in a variety of ways, yet many tools are primarily focused on just getting the tasks done. #projectmanagement #reimagine #business #teams #leadership Share on X

If you are interested in the need to reimagine project management as much as I am, reach out by email – info@smartprojex.com.