Where’s Project Management Going? Musings

A friend sent me a note today asking for a few minutes to talk about the future of project management. We are scheduling the time to talk, but his message and some of the insights he provided got me thinking.

He indicated that Gartner is seeing a leveling off of demand for project managers and an increase in demand for program managers. Why? Well, I think the bloom is off the PMP (Project Management Professional) rose. Too many projects continue to struggle if not outright fail even with PMPs at the helm. The PgMP (Program Management Professional) rose is just budding (New and Improved!) and I guess people feel that program management is what is needed to make projects successful. But, is that the case?

Program Management, as it is currently approached, continues to rely on predictive and prescriptive planning and lots of control, the approaches that have not been so successful in the past. As all of us with experience in project and program management know that no project survives first encounter with reality to borrow a phase from the military (Patton or Eisenhower? Actually, a Google search provides lots of other sources, including some older than these two outstanding generals, so let’s leave it at that.)

Not only is an encounter with reality detrimental to a project plan, but there are those agents (people!) who many times don’t follow the prescribed plan! So, since PMPs are not successful, let’s go with PgMPs that have a much harder job to do (as per PMI, a program has two or more projects and possibly some operations that managed together provide more benefit than managed independently). Do we think they’ll be successful? Personally, I do not.

Those of you familiar with my writings know that I prefer adaptive, flexible, Agile plans (Scrum and other Agile methodologies for software, CBPM for non-software as well as software projects where more “traditional” Agile approaches are not possible) to prescriptive, predictive plans. You also know that I put a lot of value on leadership. Even though Scrum teams are supposed to be self-leading, a leader is still key to provide the space necessary for them to be successful, whether it is a ScrumMaster or upper management.

In my view, project leadership is what is needed and what will start taking a much more significant role. This may not be good news for those who rely on the tools of project management but it is what is necessary to be successful.  But remember, soft skills are very hard to acquire and use successfully!

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