Nix the spreadsheet




photography by KATHY TARANTOLA

TOM PETERS presents approximately 80 major seminars each year, has written hundreds of articles for various publications and serves as chairman of Tom Peters Co., Loveland, Ohio, USA. He most recently published Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. Peters is a Fellow of the International Academy of Management, The World Productivity Association, the International Customer Service Association and the Society for Quality and Participation.



I must admit that I'm a little critical of project management traditions. With the advent of information technology, project managers have become much too focused on complicated charts and graphs and not intent enough on the overall business value.

This is problematic because nearly 90 percent of today's traditional white-collar jobs will be outsourced or automated in the next 10 to 15 years. Organizations that survive this economic transformation will be those that re-imagine and breathe new life into their project management methodologies and into the people who implement them. The whole discipline and art of project management is going to be the essence of management training, operational excellence and value added.

IBM Corp. serves as a classic example of this enormous shift that must occur. Shedding its forefather's “Big Blue” moniker, IBM Global Services has transformed itself into a creative project organization in every sense of the word. It's the world's biggest consulting company, helping other enterprises make the leap into the new business environment.

CEOs like former IBM chief Louis V. Gerstner Jr. must cultivate their intellectual capital and revive the creativity in their project management. They must use the methodology to uncover the best in people. Leaders must build a strong portfolio of project managers to look much like a football team or a symphony. They must determine how to attract, train, nurture, promote and award the key players.

Leaders must excite team members and managers and help them focus on the big picture. We so easily get caught up in the details that we forget the “holy smokes!” aspects of a project and the strategic aims behind it. Project managers must ensure that the fire and the energy thrive throughout the project's life cycle. We shouldn't always be bogged down in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture.

These days, it's the people skills that matter and will increasingly determine an organization's success. We've overcomplicated stuff that's somewhat straightforward. Instead of sitting behind a computer screen, managers ought to be out seeking excellence. Project managers were put on this earth to wander purposefully around the office, not to be stuck in offices dealing with spreadsheets. Project management is not a spreadsheet—even in a virtual era.

The whole discipline and art of project management is going to be the essence of management training, operational excellence and value added.

Not too far off, experts predict that teams will voluntarily come together to solve complex problems using global resources, essentially replacing the modern corporation. Project managers—those with a knack for people skills—will be the glue that holds these teams together. They will be the major players who will advance the strategic aims of their teams. PM




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