It's time to re-engineer project management
John Tuman, Jr., P. E., joined the Management Technologies Group, Inc., in 1989 as a senior vice president responsible for consulting and training services to corporations in the U.S. and overseas.
Mr. Tuman has been involved in all aspects of engineering and project management for more than 30 years. He has been project manager and program manager on several major military, aerospace, and R&D programs for the General Electric Company and AVCO Corporation. At Gilbert/Commonwealth, Inc., he was responsible for developing advanced computer-based management systems, and providing management consulting and training services to clients around the world.
He has given numerous presentations and seminars on management issues and problems. He teaches project management at the Penn State University graduate center. He is a registered professional engineer and has an M.S. degree in computer science and a B.S. in mechanical engineering.
Modem project management has been around for almost 40 years. Historically, the job of project management was to accomplish an undertaking that was unique to the regular business of the corporation. Almost without exception, projects had to be accomplished within an organizational framework and culture founded on subdivision of work, specialization, and efficiency through repetition. In this type of environment, project management's job was to marshal the organization's resources and direct specific skills to accomplish the project without unduly disrupting the corporation's primary business. To do this, project management developed a team-based culture and a special set of tools. These tools were directed at the problem of defining and utilizing the right resources (people, money, facilities, equipment, etc.) in the right sequence, at the right time. Network planning and scheduling techniques like CPM and PERT became, and still are, the emblem of project management. These tools set project management apart from traditional management.
Most of the significant developments in project management were made in the 1950s and 1960s. Project management's primary tools (CPM and PERT) were developed in 1957 and 1958. With the founding of PMI in 1964, project management was “professionalized,” and in 1967 the Department of Defense formally “systematized’’ project management by way of the Cost/Schedule Control System Criteria (DOD 7000.2). Since that time, philosophical and technological advancements in project management have been minimal at best.
THE CHANGING CORPORATE ENVIRONMENT
Today the corporate environment is changing dramatically. Rigid corporate structures are being replaced by flatter, more flexible models. Large organizations are being decentralized to move decision makers closer to their customers. Participative management and self-directed work teams are replacing the manager-subordinate model of the traditional hierarchal organization. In addition, technology, especially information technology, enables management to do more with smaller staffs. Is project management keeping pace with these changes?
Computers and software have become more powerful, less costly and are widely used in business. However, in the project environment, CPM and PERT still tend to be tools for specialists, not managers. In far too many cases specialists plan projects and managers try to make the plans work. In addition, specialists collect status information and managers try to figure out what went wrong. The typical project manager spends most of his or her time in meetings-collecting information, reviewing problems, evaluating activities, and giving direction. The job of the project manager has not changed much in the last 30 years. Furthermore, the tools of project management have not improved that much either. Despite the PC, Windows, icons, and toolbars, project management software is still considered an esoteric instrument by many and not a pragmatic tool like the powerful word processor or spread sheet. To remain viable in today's corporate environment, project management must have easy-to-use, interactive planning and control tools. What's more, these tools must be an integral part of the corporate process.
RE-ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT THROUGH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Management is finding innovative ways to use the power of information technology to accomplish corporate goals and obtain maximum performance from its resources. In fact, in addition to downsizing the corporation to reduce staff and streamline operations, corporations are also downsizing their mainframe architecture. Corporations are actively implementing technologies centered on open operating systems, LANs, super servers, gateways, client/server computing, SQL databases and Windows 4GLs. The goal is to create a spider web of communication and information processing throughout the organization to enable centralized control and decentralized decision making.
Modern information systems do more than crunch numbers and report variances against plans. Computers talk to each other, update files, adjust inventories, reorder stock, and perform a host of other tasks that once were the domain of middle managers. EDI (electronic data interchange) is replacing paper transactions in the corporate environment and providing new and more efficient ways to conduct business.
Information systems are also advancing planning and control. For example, Cypress Semiconductor is a corporation that makes extensive use of groupware. Employees working at computers can share files and data and interact electronically. Using groupware and the computer network, employees define their goals, plans, and schedules and send the information to the central database where VI% and managers review progress and monitor results. Results are transparent to all, the impact of performance on the whole is easily assessed, and corrective action can be applied early when it can be most effective. The company has been famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for its “killer software.” Killer software are specialized programs that monitor performance in each department. When the software finds a function that is slipping behind schedule, it shuts down the function's comput-ers— a tactic that never fails to get a manager's attention quickly. This is just one example of how corporations are beginning to use the power of information technology to organize, plan, and make decisions quickly and effectively. In fact a whole new generation of software tools has moved into the corporate environment. these powerful tools are built on advances in artificial intelligence, expert systems, neural networks, chaos theory, genetic algorithms, and many other concepts that are finally working their way out of the laboratory. Where is project management in all of this?
It would seem that project management is not keeping pace with the advances in technology nor the changes in the corporate environment. Unless project management can formulate unique tools, like it did in the ’50s and ’60s, and develop a philosophy and a culture tuned to the need of the changing corporate environment it will soon disappear. We need to re-engineer project management. Specifically, we need a new model for project management, we need a new mission, and we need simpler and smarter tools.
Management Technologies Group, Inc. (MTGI) of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1983 to provide specialized consulting services and management training to utilities, industrial firms, and government agencies. MTGI specializes in project management, organization development, and information technology. We focus on enhancing organizational ef-festiveness through on-site support, training, team building, and application of PC-based computer technology. Our goal is to ensure that what we do makes a positive difference in the client's bottom line.
Our professional staff consists entirely of highly experienced technical and management personnel who are nationally and internationally recognized in their respective fields. Our services include:
- Project management training and team building
- Project planning, scheduling and staff support
- Design and implementation of project procedures and systems
- Organizational and project effectiveness audits
- Organizational change studies and intervention programs
- Design, implementation, and support of computer-based management systems
- Data management and imaging systerns support services
We build customized teams to meet specific client requirements. MTGI has created alliances with associate members to provide premier expertise and experience without the heavy burden of the traditional corporate overhead. These associate members are nationally and internationally known independent consultants, educators, and specialists.
Our unique corporate structure and innovative staffing approach provides highly experienced resources, in a cost effective manner, to address specific management problems and to meet short-term or long-term corporate needs.
PMI research shows project teams that draw from an array of perspectives and skillsets deliver powerful outcomes.