How to change the world with project management
Managing Principal, Projectize Group LLC
Project management is a key ingredient to change the world. We know that without project management it is hard to execute a vision into reality. Project management provides the structure, process, and related tools and techniques to execute and enable the change. Project management is the essential element to execute the vision that can change the world, but it does not guarantee it. Many projects are completed on time and within budget, but do not successfully achieve the intended objectives and results. More and more there is a realization that project management is only one side of the coin; the other side that is often missing or not well utilized is change management. There is a need to think “whole,” and manage both the project and the related change; this is how to fully realize the benefits and value. We need to fundamentally shift our perspective and push the boundaries of project management to deal with today's changing project reality.
This paper raises key questions: What are the necessary imperatives for the next project management generation to be able to be the essential element to change the world? What do the next generation of project and program managers have to do so that their projects and programs cause sustainable change and make an impact? What are the characteristics of iconic projects and people who lead them to change the world? In short, this paper discusses how the next generation of project management and project managers can be better equipped to change the world!
Projects change the world. You need projects to change the world. Projects and programs are not only the vehicles of change, but they also cause change. Project management is a key ingredient to change the world. We know that without project management, it is hard to execute the vision into reality. Project management provides the structure, process, and related tools and techniques to execute and enable the change, but it does not guarantee it. Project management can increase project performance with better on-time and under-budget delivery. Often, however, projects are not perceived as successful if they fall short of achieving objectives or causing sustainable change. There is a need to shift the project management perspective in three ways. First, there is a need to acknowledge that managing the project is only one side of the coin, managing the change that the project causes is the other side which is equally important to realize the benefits and value. We need to find better ways to integrate and leverage both the disciplines of project management as well as change management. Secondly, there is a need to push the boundaries of project management to redefine project success and shift from execution and delivery to adoption and value. Thirdly, project managers need to shift from managing and leading change to making change. They must identify and develop the transformation characteristics and skills necessary to change the world.
There is a need to expand the focus of project management, to think holistically, and to leverage the discipline of change management as an integral ingredient for project and program success. It is imperative for project management to understand and integrate change. In the organizational project management world, we are used to taking a narrow view of change and change management as it relates to project management. The emphasis is on controlling, managing, or leading change. There needs to be a shift from managing and leading change to making and owning change (change-making). We need to think whole and integrative to realize the value of projects and programs—a value that often remains hidden or unrealized.
The Need for a Holistic View
Project and program performance has increased over the years, and more projects are delivered on time and within budget. According to a 2012 McKinsey/Oxford study, only 7% of projects were behind schedule and 45% were over budget, which is a considerable improvement over previous studies. However, the same study acknowledged that an average of 56% of projects (IT sector) had a benefits shortfall, or less benefits realization than predicted. They are not necessarily perceived successful because they fall short in achieving their objectives and fail to cause sustainable change.
Our own experience over the last thirteen years of working with multiple-fortune companies that have implemented project management and PMO practices have improved their project performance with better ontime and within-budget criteria; however, a common CXO comment is, “Project performance has improved, but so what? End users and customers are not necessarily happy; they are not using or buying the product or the system!” The missing elements are the key questions of customer and end-user adoption, satisfaction with the product, or service of the project. More and more there is a realization of the need for a deeper understanding of change management, as well as a broader application and integration of change management. Also, there is a need to understand various aspects of organizational change management (OCM) that must be considered in concert with organizational project management practices. This is particularly important in today's ever- increasing turbulent DANCE: (Dynamic and changing; Ambiguous and uncertain; Non-linear; Complex; and Emergent and unpredictable) organizational project management (OPM) environment (Duggal, 2010, 2012).
Elements of change management appear throughout Project Management Institute's (PMI) foundational standards, but they were not specifically identified as “change management.” Recognizing the need for addressing this issue and better integrating the discipline of project management with change management, PMI has published a timely practice guide: Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide (2013). The guide describes how, “regardless of the extent or maturity of OPM in an organization, portfolio, program, and project management needs to increase the effective practice of change management inherent in the PMI foundational standards so that strategy can be executed reliably and effectively…It sets the practices, processes, and disciplines on managing change in the context of portfolio, program, and project management, and illustrates how change management is an essential ingredient in using project management as the vehicle for delivering organizational strategy.”
This is a much-needed step to understand, apply, and integrate change management as an integral part of organizational project management. Just as in project management, the practice of organizational change management has gained a lot of momentum in the last couple of decades. There are over 900 books on the subject just on Amazon alone, and there are numerous articles, training programs, and OCM consultancy, yet the failure rate of change initiatives has remained consistent at 70%. The latest thinking on the subject comes from the well-known authority and bestselling author on change management, John Kotter, PhD. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Accelerate!” (2012), Kotter explains, “The hierarchical structures and organizational processes we have used for decades to run and improve our enterprises are no longer up to the task…In fact, they can actually thwart attempts to compete in a marketplace where discontinuities are more frequent and innovators must always be ready to face new problems.” Kotter (2012) offers a solution, however: “A second operating system, devoted to the design and implementation of strategy, that uses an agile, network like structure and a very different set of processes…It complements rather than overburdens the traditional hierarchy, thus freeing the latter to do what it's optimized to do…This is not an ‘either or’ idea. It's ‘both and.’”
Kotter outlines the classic eight-step change process in Leading Change (1996, 2012): 1. Establishing a sense of urgency; 2. Creating the guiding coalition; 3. Developing a change vision; 4. Communicating the vision for buy-in; 5. Empowering broad-based action; 6. Generating short-term wins; 7. Never letting up; 8. Incorporating changes into the culture. In addition, he proposes five guiding principles in his latest work, Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster Moving World. - 1. Many change agents, not just the usual few appointees; 2. A want-to and a get-to—not just a have-to—mindset; 3. Head and heart, not just head; 4. Much more leadership, not just more management; 5. Two systems, one organization—the network and hierarchy working in concert (2014).
There is a need to bridge the two disciplines of project management and change management to enhance and complement each other in a holistic way. Kotter's change process and guidelines, the numerous other appropriate change management models and techniques, and the framework and guidelines outlined in PMI's Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide can be helpful and enhance the success rate of change initiatives, projects, and programs. However, to make this work, there is an additional need for a fundamental shift in mindset that must happen both at the organizational project management (OPM) level and from the individual project and program manager perspective.
From Managing Change to Change Making: The Need for Changemakers
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition (2013) provides an overview of change as it relates to projects, programs, and portfolios in the context of organizational project management:
“Project managers expect change and implement processes to keep change managed and controlled.”
“The program manager must expect change from both inside and outside the program and be prepared to manage it.”
“Portfolio managers continually monitor changes in the broad environment.”
This view of change as it relates to OPM limits the perspective to managing, controlling, and monitoring change. There is no holistic perspective of ownership and responsibility for the success of the change. As a result, there is an inherent dichotomy between delivery and adoption, or implementation and the use of the product or service. Project managers are not responsible for the end-use or success of the initiative, product, or service. There is a need to shift this perspective, particularly in today's turbulent DANCE project environments with high stakeholder expectations and increasing complexity and uncertainty. The next generation of project management needs to be based on a holistic and integrative view, rather than a reductionist and procedural view.
Whether you are a project manager or program manager, you will benefit from a shift in perspective from managing and leading change to change making. “Changemaker” is a term used in the context of social entrepreneurship. A changemaker is one who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resources, makes that change happen. It is a term popularized by the social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka. I believe this term is much needed in project management, to cause a shift and bring about a different perspective. A changemaker isn't someone who simply manages change and wishes for change; he or she makes change happen. Changemakers have the ability to transform; they influence the outcomes through responsibility, ownership, and determination.
A blog post from Observations of a Changemaker: Lessons and Stories from Future Changemakers explains, “There is one main difference between changemakers and the rest of the world. Most people desire change; many know what they would like to see different in the world, and some even know how it could be done best. There is a higher class of people who act to see their change happen; many of these fail. However, this is where changemakers differ: they make their change happen. Using a combination of knowledge, resources, and determination, they push through until their dream becomes truth, and then push some more.”
Managing Change Versus Making Change
The recognition of integrating and leveraging the discipline of change management with project management is a much needed move; however, there is a fundamental shift that needs to happen from managing and leading change toward the idea of making and owning change. Traditionally, project managers manage change to deliver the project. However, the responsibility and accountability for the change taking place is detached. There is no direct sense of ownership of the change as a result of the project. Execution and delivery is measured separately from results and outcomes. A project manager's perspective is that it is not his or her responsibility whether the change happens or not, and whether the end users change, adopt, and use the products, systems, or services of the project. The next generation of project management needs to emphasize the ownership and accountability of ensuring the change takes place to position and enable the achievement of the desired benefits and outcomes.
It is important to distinguish between managing change versus making change. Exhibit 1 summarizes the key points of distinction between managing change versus making change.
Exhibit 1 - Managing change versus making change
What Are the Key Imperatives to Change the World with Project Management?
To change the world with project management, we need to change project management. As organizations try to deal with the turbulence of today's DANCE project environments, there is recognition for the need to shift perspective and gain a broader view of project management (besides integrating change management, as discussed above). The next generation of project management is holistic and integrative with an understanding that project success cannot be isolated within the boundaries of the project, but is dependent on complex, organizational, cultural, behavioral, and other aspects. The following are key imperatives for the next generation of project management:
From Reductionism to Wholeness
The foundation of project management is based on reductionism. Breakdown structures are at the heart of the project management approach and technique. You can't tackle the whole elephant, so you need to break it down into manageable chunks. This approach works well to organize, plan, and manage, but often we pay a price because it is hard to bring it back together, especially in projects with DANCE characteristics. Integration management can help, but it often falls short due to the complexities of today's project environment and multiplicity of dependency on organizational, cultural, behavioral, and other aspects. It is like a mirror: once you break it, you can try your best to bring it back together and restore the wholeness, but you will never be able to see the whole and get the same results. To change the world, next generation project management needs to shift to a holistic and integrative approach, and start seeing the whole, identifying the patterns, and connecting the dots while using more of a design approach to project planning (Duggal, 2012).
Redefinition of Project Success
How do you measure project success? The initial idea of the triple constraint of time, cost, and scope was a framework to track and monitor projects. Over time, it has also become a de facto method to define and measure project success. While the triple constraint is necessary, it is not enough. Projects that are delivered on time, within budget, and meet scope specifications may not be perceived as successful by key stakeholders.
Besides time, cost, scope, and quality, what are other criteria for project success in your organization? We asked this question of project stakeholders in a survey conducted by the Projectize Group in 2008–2009. Participants identified the following criteria as more important to defining project success: Stakeholder and customer satisfaction; Meeting business case objectives; Customer/end-user adoption; Quality of delivery; Meeting governance criteria; and Benefits realization.
An important concept to understand is that time, cost, and scope are related to project outputs, whereas the other factors are related to business outcomes. Based on today's project environments, project managers need to broaden their perspective to include other criteria to satisfy stakeholders and deliver business results. Sample approaches for rethinking the triple constraint were highlighted in the PMI Community Post article, “How Do You Measure Project Success? Rethinking the Triple Constraint” (Duggal, 2010).
Cultivating an Adoption Mindset
Project management at its core is about execution and implementation. However, there is recognition that implementation alone is not enough; adoption is the other side of the coin. Without adoption, implementation has no value. Next generation project management creates an awareness and an expectation that planning for the change includes not only tasks for installing the new systems, tools, and processes, but also the activities for assuring the adoption of change. Next generation project managers visualize implementation and adoption distinctly and plan for it. They recognize that unlike implementation, adoption is an attitude, not an event, and they cultivate an attitude of adoption at all levels. Next generation project management needs to emphasize adoption as an integral part of the project lifecycle.
Ownership and Accountability of Benefits and Outcomes
Traditional project management assumes responsibility and accountability of execution and delivery of the project. Ownership and accountability of the benefits and outcomes of the project are not the responsibility of project management. It is typically argued that the ultimate adoption or realization of the benefits is not the responsibility of the project manager. It is not fair to hold the project manager accountable whether or not the product or service or system is used. This argument promotes a limiting behavior of change control, focusing narrowly on the constraints, and finger pointing when there are problems or shortfall in the realization of benefits.
Another argument is that the ownership and accountability for benefits realization is the domain of program management. Program management by definition deals with managing strategic change and benefits realization, and is well suited to address this challenge. According to the PMI 2013 Pulse of the Profession® study, only 27% of the organizations surveyed have mature program management practices. As organizations try to mature their OPM practices, they find it hard to articulate and implement program management. As one CXO of a large organization that struggled to implement program management practices commented, “It was much easier to mature our project management practices and implement portfolio management, but we are finding it hard to articulate and implement program management even though it makes a lot of sense in theory. We are dealing with a lot of complexity and we wish we could organize it all neatly into projects, programs, and portfolio.” There is a need to deal with the attainment of benefits in organizations that have not yet implemented program management, or do not have the OPM maturity to do so in the short-term.
Balance Process and Behavior
Traditional project management focuses on process and emphasizes configuration and procedural aspects of change. An important element often overlooked is behavior. Process in itself does not guarantee change in behavior. There is a realization that the more important aspect of change is the human-side of change, which involves change at multiple levels, including psychological, emotional, and neurological change. Human-side typically does not get adequate attention because it is much harder to understand and deal with, although with the execution-oriented process, people think otherwise. The next generation of project management emphasizes the need to balance the hands (process/content/what and how/tactical) with the head (reason/context/why/strategic) and the heart (emotional/behavioral).
Next Generation Project Management: From Execution and Business Orientation Toward Transformation
Exhibit 2 lists the differences between execution-oriented, business-oriented, and transformation-oriented project and program managers.
Exhibit 2 - Three types of project / program manager orientation
Most project managers are skilled and have a comfort zone in one of the three areas. Some are hybrids of two of the three, and very few are skilled and comfortable in all three. In a recent Projectize Group survey, 40% identified themselves as execution-oriented, 20% as business-oriented, and 25% as change-oriented. In addition, 7.5% were a hybrid of business/execution, 5% were a hybrid of execution/transformation, and only 2.5% identified as a blend of all three.
The key is to know your own strength and comfort zone, and then develop complementary skills in other areas to achieve a balance to become the next generation project manager. Particularly if you are execution- or business-oriented, developing transformation orientation will help you to become more effective in your domain of expertise to achieve success and cause sustainable change. The ideal is a blend and balance among all three business/execution/transformation (BET), as illustrated in Exhibit 3.
Exhibit 3 - Balancing business, execution & transformation
Traditional project management focused on change with the hands (process/configuration/oriented). Over the years, there has been a realization that there is a need to focus on behavior and emotions (heart) as well. Lasting change needs a balance of three dimensions: the hands (execution–process/content/what and how/tactical) with the head (business–reason/context/why/strategic) and heart (transformational–emotional/behavioral). Most change efforts are strong in one or the other approaches, but there is a need to balance all three. Next generation project managers understand their strengths and try to complement and balance the hands in sync with the head and the heart.
What Do Next Generation Project Managers Have to Do to develop the Transformational Characteristics to Change the World?
There are numerous change management models, change readiness assessments, processes, techniques, and tips that have proliferated over the last two decades. According to the Harvard Business Review, the brutal fact is that the failure rate of all change initiatives has remained consistent at 70%. Change is hard, even if it is a matter of life and death. Only one in seven heart patients can change their behavior, even when doctors tell them that they will die if they don't, according to a study referenced by Kegan and Lahey in their book, Immunity to Change (2009). So you will have to BE-GOD, as explained below, if you want to change the world! As we studied iconic projects and people that change the world, they all had the following characteristics that can be summarized in the acronym BE-GOD:
Belief and Passion
How can you change the world if you don't believe in your project? An essential ingredient for success is a deep sense of purpose, belief, and passion for your project. Your attitude about the purpose of the project is going to impact your project environment, and how you interact with your team and stakeholders. Next generation project managers believe in their projects, they are selective, and they take on projects that they believe in. They have a deep sense of purpose, and inspire their teams and stakeholders with the same. They also believe that they make a difference, and with every project they are changing the world in their own way.
Empathy is the ability to connect with stakeholders, customers, and end-users at a deeper level to understand and empathize with their pain, needs, and wants. This takes stakeholder management and requirements gathering to the next level of stakeholder intimacy and experience. It takes deep and careful observation to develop insights of their needs, so you can design the solution that best meets their needs and expectations. It goes beyond static interviews, focus groups, or requirements analysis; it involves spending time walking in their shoes, empathizing with their needs, and feeling their pain that the change is going to bring about. It is a different way of developing a deeper understanding of the scope. It helps you better plan and connect with them from their perspective. For example, having business analysts spend time working together with end users, doing their jobs, and gaining first-hand experience of the end users’ needs helps in gaining a better understanding of scope. It also reduces scope changes and re-work after the fact. Often, customers don't know what they want, or don't know how to articulate their needs. Practicing empathy and stakeholder intimacy by spending more time taking deep observations and walking in their shoes can help to better understand the scope, manage expectations, and deliver projects that make an impact. The deliverables, products, systems, or services of these projects are being used and adapted, and end-users and stakeholders are satisfied and loyal customers.
Traditional project managers are focused on the goals and end-dates. They strive hard to deliver the goals within the project constraints. Next generation project managers understand that is important, but they have a long-term gaze. They try to achieve the goals, but with a long-term perspective. Traditional project managers measure success in terms of the end-date, whereas next generation project managers worry about the project and measure success way beyond the end-date, instead focusing on increasing adoption, user experience, and ultimately, project outcomes and benefits realization. They know how to translate high-level organizational or program goals and benefits into incremental benefits to provide purpose, focus, and meaning at their level.
There is an old anecdote about two stonecutters toiling in the heat of the day. A passerby asks them, “What are you doing?” The first laborer says, “Can't you see? I am cutting a stone in this heat,” while the other responds, “I am building a magnificent castle.” There is a world of difference between these two points of view and the attitude and behavior it promotes. Imagine if everyone in the organization at every level behaved with a sense of ownership of their actions, results, and outcomes in everything they did. This is exactly what one financial services client is cultivating and promoting: the idea “think like an owner” at every level in the organization. They are changing a culture of blame and finger-pointing to one of ownership and accountability. Next generation project managers think like an owner and take responsibility, ownership, and accountability for the results and outcomes, and also create an expectation that ownership resides in all layers of the organization, not just at the top.
If you examine iconic projects and people who changed the world, you will find that they are typically the “deviants.” From Gandhi and Einstein to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Steve Jobs, they challenge the status quo, break the rules, invent new ways, and change the world. Deviants derive their extraordinary capabilities from the identical environmental conditions as those around them, but are not constrained by conventional wisdoms; they disrupt their domains and change the world. Successful project managers are determined, and often are the deviants who raise the tough questions, challenge the status quo, and find unconventional approaches and solutions, not just to get the project done, but to make the change happen and have a lasting impact.
In conclusion, Apple Inc.'s famous ‘Think Different” ad campaign provides the appropriate perspective to understand the power of deviants and changemakers:
So here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes…
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them…
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.
- Apple Inc., “Think Different” Ad Campaign
If you think you can't change your world, think again! The next generation of project managers are “changemakers”—they don't just manage and lead change, they make change happen. It is well established that project managers manage change and program managers lead change. To improve project and program success rates and have a lasting impact, the next generation of project and program managers have to be the changemakers that own the change and make it happen. It starts with a belief that project managers indeed change the world in their own way. They have to think holistically, and take responsibility and ownership for results and outcomes, not just delivery of tasks and outputs.
The next generation of project management can change the world. It has to be holistic and integrative, rather than purely reductionist and breakdown-oriented. With a better understanding and redefinition of what constitutes project/program success and focusing on ownership and accountability for results and outcomes, and shifting from one-sided execution and delivery to adoption and impact, project management can indeed change the world.
Out of the three types of project manager orientation—execution, business, and transformation—you need to know what your comfort zone is, and how you need to cultivate the transformation and change dimension necessary to change the world. Next generation project managers understand their strengths and try to complement and balance the three: the hands (tactical) in sync with the head (strategic) and the heart (transformational).
There is an old saying: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but nobody thinks of changing themselves.” Changing the world starts with you. As you discover the spark of wholeness, you will start to connect things and deliver projects and programs with impactful and lasting change. The change has to start with you. This may lead to your team, your organization, and your community, and eventually you will have changed the world in your own way. Change is hard; you will have to BE-GOD and cultivate Belief, Empathy, Gaze, Ownership, and Deviant behavior if you want to change the world.
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© 2014, Jack S. Duggal, MBA, PMP
Originally published as a part of the 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dubai, UAE