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Bettina Maier

06.09.2013

Thoughts on the verve of project management

Next week I´m starting a further training at Stanford University in San Francisco called Advanced Management Program. In this article, I would like to talk about my intention, thoughts and expectations to the program. The courses are focusing on strategy in terms of execution, innovation management, design thinking and agile project management.

Classic Project Management 1.0

Let´s start with a short and rough description of the classic way of project management that will be called Project Management 1.0 in the following. The philosophy of Project Management 1.0 was developed during the 1960s. As mentioned in the „Engineering Project Organizational Journal“ by Raymond E. Levitt: The methods and tools for managing complex projects are „based on the requirements of, and experience in, the aerospace/defense, construction and pharmaceutical industries“. How does a complex project these days looked like? Most of the complex projects could be cut into small independent sub-projects. The sub-projects in turn were planned and tracked in great detail. These days, the environment and the basic prerequisite were much more stabile and predictable than today. The philosophy of centralized planning and control on the one hand and decentralized execution on the other hand was state of the art.

Agile Project Management 2.0 

Today we live in a globalized and connected world, shaped by rapidly changing technologies, dynamic evolving markets as well as political and financial turbulences. In the last decades new approaches of project management expand and can be summerized as Project Management 2.0. What are the challenges and opportunities to project management in the future and what skills, methods and tools are inevitable to manage projects?

To approximate that question, it is significant to figure out what environmental changes innovations in technology and services involve.

At Intuity Media Lab we provide a platform and working space for ideation and design thinking to our customers and colleagues. That doesn´t sound like all projects are stable and predictable in detail. Quite the contrary: projects are getting more and more complex, multidisciplinary and most of all more interesting!

To figure out the challenges and opportunities, I would like to draw on an example of our project portfolios. Our clients are increasingly connecting their products and services to the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things can be seen as a fast growing, dynamic and synergetic network between products and services on the one hand. From this it follows that the internet of things entails the alliance of projects, that were formerly independent on the other hand. Independent in terms of business models, divisional structure and therefore of project management. If products and services are connected, the thought is obvious that the business model, product strategy and the management of such products and services are getting connected and accordingly reshaped. Centralized planning and control, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, by the description of Project Management 1.0, come to the limit, when you are faced with dynamic and complex situations.

Innovation and developments like the Internet of Things also have an impact on the culture and the teamwork of a corporation. To provide excellent performance and a seamless user experience of connected products and services, teams are increasingly flexible composed of diverging professions – depending on the direction and objective of the projects. To take this thought a step ahead, corporations are shaping future ventures to provide innovative and smart products by the verve of synergy. The outcome of this is that not only projects are getting more and more complex, but also dependencies, knowledge sharing and flow of information between teams, business units and corporations.

The development of project management

Working on innovative projects also means that business models, ideas and prototypes are reconsidered iteratively. Sometimes they even have to be dropped consciously to open the room for new ideas and lift projects to the next branch on the tree of innovation. I appreciate the quote of Woody Allan who said: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” From this point of view, failing can be seen as a considerable and awareness part of a project rather than a reversal. Nevertheless, it´s quite smart to fail in an early state of a project. Project management methods like „scrum“ already opened the scope for iterative product development.

Beside evolution in project management new methods and tools for creating business models have been developed. In a different way from established lines of action and best practices, recent approaches like the „Business Model Generation Canvas“ of  Alexander Osterwalder primary focus on co-creational work to face with the demands and challenges of forward-looking product and service development from different angles.

To give a résumé: Complex projects call for agility, dynamic adaptiveness and co-creation, providing the space for iterative team play to get the best result out of unpredictable process developments in due consideration of costs, functionality and quality.

By taking part in the Advanced Project Management program, I am excited about bringing a new dimension to my appointment as well as my talented project team.

Beside the theoretical and practical part, I´m looking forward to collaborate and exchange experience with my peers on Stanford campus.