Reinventing Project Management for Knowledge Workers

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

Are the bulk of today’s projects that require subject matter experts to share information and collaborate on novel solutions really best managed via the control mechanisms from the 19th century? Do our bodies of knowledge and so-called project management “best practices” translate from the industrial world of manufacturing that inspired them into the information age?

Is planning, more planning and then some more planning really the best way to start a project when the stakeholders acknowledge they have an incomplete picture of what needs to be done and the environment is changing?

I could go one with these rhetorical questions, but they all boil down to the mismatch of using industrial age processes in a knowledge worker environment. The tools are no longer appropriate for the situation. Just as we would not fill a car’s fuel tank with a bag of oats and expect it to perform, neither should we expect a modern collaboration based project to be best served by a WBS.

Techniques and tools like Gantt charts evolved with the industrial revolution they served. With the advent of the factory and automated manufacturing came new ways of organizing work that decomposed problems into simpler and simpler steps until localized labor with a single task could be used. These industrial age approaches are extremely efficient for defined, repeatable work. …

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