Is Project Management Dead?

The PMBOK book comes to you courtesy of Project Management Institute.
It is considered a standard for project management.
Chapters 1 to 3 are "must" reads. The remaining chapters are further, very useful elaborations of the material in these earlier chapters.
When you read chapters 1 to 3, think of what it would mean to apply the concepts in some project you're facing: Perhaps, you're organizing a large conference, a wedding, or the construction of the next space shuttle.
See which concepts are applicable where.
I used the book, along with cases form the real world, to teach a semester-long graduate course in project management at NPU last summer.

Far from it.

Projects are about unique objectives attained within defined duration.

They are inherently different from operational work.

By the very nature of how we operate as human beings, any cooperative activity involving more than a two or three interactions per person contains within it the seeds of error, missteps and failures. (This may have to do with the common size of family units in some of our societies.)

The whole practice of project management involves instituting processes that meet in anticipation of these errors and failures, handle and check them when they occur and make the necessary adjustments in order to digest the uncertainties that future brings.

If future could be perfectly predicted, there would be no need for project management. If groups could cooperate with a guarantee that no failure or shortcomings would occur on the way to the objective, there would be no need for project management.


Hi Masood,
I think you are asking the wrong question. As evidenced by the taming of fire, inventing the wheel, the pyramids, great wall of China, Panama and Suez Canal to name but a few, project management has been around since time immemorial. I would postulate that project management is hard wired into the human psyche. That is, if we did not have projects to do, we would INVENT them.

Assuming you buy into what I am saying so far, the real question is "After eons of doing projects why are the failure rates so high?" ("Failure" defined to be late, over budget, not in substantial conformance to the design criteria and/or failing to achieve whatever the original objective was)

Part of the problem I fear lies with PMI and the PMBOK Guide. PMI, through the PMBOK Guide, looks at projects more or less as stand alone entities. That is, while they talk about portfolios and programs, that part is more or less an aside. (To PMI's credit, they somewhat fixed this problem in the soon to be released PMBOK Guide 2008)

After some 40+ years of being a project manager and/or working on a project team, I believe the root cause of the failure lies in the fact that projects do NOT exist in a vacuum. Project management is but one part of a "play", that involves asset managers, operations managers as well as project managers. And contrary to what PMI and other organizations purporting to represent the practice of project management would like us to believe, the project manager is NOT the star of the show. For most organizations, OPERATIONS is and always will be, the real "star", followed by the asset managers in key supporting roles. While the project manager has an important supporting role, we are generally perceived by both asset and operations managers as a necessary evil. Something to be tolerated until the asset can be exploited and/or the operations returns to generating value for the organization.

Bottom line- Let us not fall into the trap of believing the sun rises and sets on project management. We cannot and should not be doing our work without close and continuous coordination, support and cooperation between the asset, operations and project manager.

Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

Posted by Dr. Paul Giammalvo on December 12, 2008 at 08:17 PM PST #

Dear Paul - I think your comment goes a long way to cover the gaps in my post. Thank you for sharing your ideas here!

Posted by Masood Mortazavi on December 13, 2008 at 05:11 PM PST #

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