Navigating Emerging Techniques

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

The good news is that we keep innovating in the application of project management techniques. The bad news? Some days we keep innovating in the application of project management techniques.

While I’ve done my share of criticizing old management models, I do have a number of challenges with models that are presented as being “new”. Those challenges, in a nutshell, could be summarized by the following points:

  • Their supporters often advocate for the approach with a messianic zeal bordering on the cultish, where everything that came before is bad and wrong, and loudly proclaim that their new approach will cure all that ails the management and delivery of projects.
  • In order to reinforce the irrelevance of what has come before, their criticisms adopt the essential assumption that no common sense, adaptation or considerations of appropriateness ever occur (sadly, an assertion that in some instances has validity).
  • The new models ignore the influence and arbitrariness of organizational politics and execute fiat just as much as the old ones do.
  • The actual application of common sense to traditional models actually gets very close to what the advocates of “new” models are actually trumpeting.

No doubt, there are those that will take exception to the above. I’m equally sure that there are others that find the points …

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