Project Management

The '3 Bears' Theory of Project Management

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

This month’s theme of project management on a budget raises some interesting questions. Certainly, a number of organizations are feeling the strain these days. The inevitable consequence seems to be that project managers are feeling the pressure as well, as they are challenged to get more done, faster and with less support than ever before. So how do we find the balance in making project management work? What constitutes “enough” project management, and how do we make the call? What are we giving up when we compromise the approach we take, and at what cost?

As we tackle these questions, it’s important to recognize that project management does in fact come at a cost. There is an expense to managing projects formally, and that expense is unfortunately often viewed as an overhead rather than an investment. Depending upon the scope of the project, the effort and cost of project management can vary between approximately 3 and 20 percent of the overall budget. A reasonable question to ask is what value this investment returns to the project. Sadly, for some organizations and executives the perspective is simply that it is unhelpful overhead, becoming the first line item that gets cut.
While project management can and does deliver value--by proactively ensuring agreement on outcomes, anticipating risks, coordinating dependences and managing …

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"I am not young enough to know everything."

- Oscar Wilde