Project Management

Creativity vs. Compliance

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

In a recent column, I raised the idea that to be auditable, something has to be visible. The implication was that the drive toward auditability that has emerged in recent years, due in part to widely publicized failures of corporate governance and ethics, has resulted in the forced creation of processes that promote a single, defined and all-too-often formal and bureaucratic way of functioning. I argued that the challenge with this trend is that it comes at the expense of creativity, flexibility and the ability to situationally respond to challenges in a way that may be appropriate but is not formally defined.
This column builds upon that question, asking if the quest for auditability and verifiability is impacting our capacity to get things done--at least as far as how we would like function. Of course, this also raises the question of whether our desire to work in a particular way means that we should be able to do so. When is flexibility required, and when does a defined process make sense? How defined does that process need to be, and how rigorously should it be followed? And most importantly (for the purpose of this column), does the need for auditability of a process require--or justify--the creation of a level of rigor beyond what is actually needed to get the work done?
This first got driven home for me a number of years ago when I was just starting out as a project …

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"Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet."

- Dave Barry