Unlearning Project Management

David Schmaltz is a project manager in Takoma Park, Maryland.

In project work, widely accepted fallacies continue to squeeze out effective practice, often by executive edict. Above all, the favored “operations management” approach trivializes the complexity and uncertainty of most projects, creating self-inflicted problems that seriously undermine performance.

The Underlying Theory of Project Management Is Obsolete — by Lauri Koskela of Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre and Gregory Howell of the Lean Construction Institute — was published in 2002 by the Project Management Institute, yet most organizations continue approaching projects the same obsolete way. Dog bites man. No news.
Another revision to PMI’s popular A Guide to Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) has appeared since then, with no acknowledgement that some of PMI’s latest inspections found its foundation rotting and rickety. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have earned PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) designation, which, according to this material PMI itself published, is based upon out-dated, obsolete — but strangely still labeled “best practice”— theories.
But then, PMI publishes a lot of contradictory stuff, always insisting upon the author assigning copyrights as a condition of acceptance. PMI released this particular paper in conjunction with a conference presentation, which Howell described as a hundred people asking hostile questions…

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