Okay, so I feel the need to take my views on PM2.0 further. On Friday I posted a piece about what I perceive as an overreaction to new tools on the marketplace for project managers to take advantage of. There seems to be a contention that the tools are either going to hurt project management as a profession or be the next big thing.
I view the emergence of these new tools as essentially a non-event. Vendors seem to stop short of providing appropriate frameworks for the tools to operate within, so it falls to innovative customers to find a use for them. In fact, my company, Papercut, is founded on my belief that organizations aren’t using them effectively. I help companies implement affordable tools that make sense for the job they’re meant to do, and provide coaching and guidance through a project to make sure that a) projects continue to have appropriate governance, b) leadership is making suitable decisions, and c) in-house management learns the value of good project management practices.
Some of the tools themselves, however, are deserving of support. My good friend @cybertactix reminded me of a Marshal McLuhan quote, “Our Age of Anxiety is, in great measure, the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools.” I believe that.
However, in my years working with repositories and data farms in project contexts, I have seen GIGO countless times. Garbage in-garbage out. If the tools are allowed to be filled with poo, don’t be surprised if nobody wants to go near them.
But it appears that’s not “the popular” message.
Shim Marom was kind enough in his comment to my Friday post to link an article he wrote in September 2009 entitled “Project Management 2.0 – A fool with a tool is still a fool”. In it he cited 2007 article by Chris Lynch. I’m glad he did because it gave me a better perspective on all the hype.
Chris’ article, while well-written, makes a few leaps of logic that don’t compute for me.
1) He writes, “PMPs…view PM as a way to control and manage a project using task lists and Gantt charts”. Whoaaaaa there. PMPs view PM as a way to control and manage a project. Full stop, thank you. What’s important is that the project is controlled and managed. Not that task lists or Gantt charts are involved. The tool is irrelevant to the need.
2) He writes, “the need for shared insight and the ability to look across the board and see things holistically is at the forefront of PM2.0”. I agree with that. All projects require a holistic view, or the solution falls in jeopardy. However Chris goes on to state that “insight and collaboration drive a project”. That I disagree with. Insight and collaboration do not result in decisions. They result in possibilities. Possibilities inform decisions, but someone has to recognize what decisions need to be made, and then make them. Decisions drive a project.
3) He writes, “most projects in the workplace today are run by business people who have never heard of Critical Path analysis”. That may be true, but Chris neglects to correlate those projects with success or failure (to be fair to Chris, so does the PMI). From my perspective, just because a business person is ignorant of project management practices is not an excuse to suggest those practices are unnecessary.
Here are my big issues with all of the above:
1. Tools don’t manage. People manage. New tools are available, and personally I embrace them when they’re appropriate, and eschew them when they’re not. But I don’t have any illusions that a tool is anything other than an inanimate thing waiting to be put to use by someone who knows how to use it. I would be quite horrified if I thought people actually believed a tool to be anything more than that.
2. Hiring managers and financial control are as desperate as ever to find ways to save money. It’s easy to want to cut project managers because they’re expensive. But that’s an incredibly myopic view. The money saved in the long term should more than make up for the cost of the PM. I find it irresponsible for anyone who knows better to suggest that replacing PMs with software tools will save money and make projects go just as smoothly. That goes for hiring organizations as well as vendors.
3. Collaboration is worthless without a framework. If you don’t have a framework, what exactly are you collaborating on? A document? A piece of software? A requirement? How are you supposed to know what problem to solve? How do you make sure everyone is asking the right questions? How do you know who needs to approve completed work? How do you even know what your objectives are? Frameworks are not one-size-fits-all. They are unique to each project. Software is not going to define your framework for you.
4. Projects require decision makers. If history has shown us anything, it’s that groups of people are never 100% united in a common goal. There are always other factors, which will ultimately derail a project if not appraised, addressed and resolved by a decisive leader who knows what they’re doing.
So I think there’s two things going on in this PM2.0 debate, and they should be separated for clarity. Regarding the new tools that are on the market for use in a project capacity, I say, “so what”. If they’re appropriate, use them; if they’re not, don’t. That’s not hard.
Regarding this very naive notion that software can somehow replace leadership, experience and knowledge, and that team members will play nicely together by default, collectively united towards a common goal? To that I say, “nonsense”.
Shim taught me in his comment that the notion of PM2.0 is loaded with a lot of silliness. From my point of view PM2.0 is a term that’s out there now, and means different things to people for as long as they’ve been exposed to the term. Perhaps Shim’s right; perhaps the term does need to go away. The only way I see that’s going to happen is if more people start talking about it, and take the air out of its tires.
Ultimately, companies may choose to believe the hype that PM2.0 is the next big thing. If they do, their projects will struggle and suffer. And they’ll realize they’d been snookered, not unlike companies who bought outsourcing contracts.
But that’s another article.