Project Management Institute

New Direction in Project Management

A recent Business Week article (October 17, 1970: pp. 109-115) provides the Project Management profession with the unique opportunity to “see ourselves as others see us.” The issue highlights trends in management in the decade of the 70's and draws three conclusions that are of direct interest to the members of PMI.

Growth in Recognition and Use of Project Management

Several executives expect to see the expanded use of project management techniques in staff functions and at top management levels. The article states some of the opinions of these executives.

Project teams and task forces will become more common in tackling complexity, contend behavioral science advocates such as John Paul Jones, senior vice president for personnel and organization development at Federated Department Stores, Inc. A team of executives from various departments, formed to cut costs throughout a company, is not unusual. But normally the practice is limited to staff functions.

Spencer Stuart, chairman of Spencer Stuart & Associates, an executive recruiting firm, sees the technique penetrating the inner circles of top management. “There will be more of what some people call ‘temporary management systems’ or ‘project management systems’ where the men who are needed to contribute to the solution meet, make their contributions, and perhaps never become a permanent member of any fixed and permanent management group.”

The writer continues:

If a company project is extremely big, complex, expensive, and involves the coordination of large numbers of skilled people, executives may want to call on PERT/CPM (program evaluation and review technique/critical path management) to determine the fastest, most efficient ways of getting the job done.

Use of Highly Flexible Project Teams

Project management focuses attention on the inherent potential problem of conflict between the organizational authority of the project manager and the technical authority of the functional specialist. Business Week supports the idea of matrix management wherein a highly flexible project team is created. Within the team there is a regular shift of positional authority during the life cycle of a project. According to the Business Week:

The cutting edge of what has been tabbed matrix management is operating in high-technology fields such as the aerospace industry. There, the group leadership role flows to the member most qualified when the task of developing a piece of hardware reaches a point that calls for his expertise. Once this particular hurdle is out of the way and another pops up calling for a different skill, leadership moves to another team member.

Stress on Involvement of Top Management

The major conclusion at the 1970 PMI conference in St. Louis was the need to involve top executives in project management. New channels of communication to top management should replace the unsuccessful methods of the past decade. The Management Planning Center (Control Room — War Room) concept could be an effective tool in the ‘70's. Here project plans might be displayed in simple, highly visible, graphic style to prompt top management: direct participation in time/cost tradeoff and multi-project resource allocations decisions.

Project management concepts will become common tools for the line managers of tomorrow if the Business Week forecasts are born out over time. The general recognition of the concepts, the involvement of line managers in project planning, and the active participation and encouragement of top executives will support the coming age of “Project Management.”

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