Project Management

Project Management as If Service Mattered

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

Project management is a service. We know that because it doesn’t produce any products (unless you count forms, checklists and templates), which is—sadly—what some people solely observe as the contribution of project managers.

And this is the problem.

Just filling out forms and templates isn’t project management. But it’s the behavior that a lot of people most associate with project management. And if all that’s seen is forms and templates, there is a very good likelihood that the service being perceived looks a lot like bureaucracy, administration and pencil-pushing. Not exactly descriptors that are known to frequent the same sentence as “service.”

If we accept that project management is a service, then we can use modifiers to describe it. We can talk about “good” service, “bad” service, “mediocre” service and “inconsequential” service. As consumers, we all know what these experiences feel like. The question is, do we recognize as project managers the kind of service we are describing? What service actually matters as a project manager? And how do we know that we are delivering it?

A simplistic answer would be defaulting to “the customer is always right.” Therefore, do whatever the customer wants. But is that really what good project management service looks …

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