Become a Next-Gen PM Today

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at

To succeed in the ever-increasing complex project world, next-generation project and program managers will need to liberate themselves from the shackles of outmoded mental models and adopt new paradigms that are consistent with reality. The majority of current program and project managers that I know live lives that vacillate between frantic and quiet desperation. And, if that weren’t bad enough, their projects don’t stay at the office. They follow them home at night and live rent-free in their heads. These managers have become subsets of their projects. They don’t have projects. Their projects have them.

Why do projects and programs take over our lives?

Here are two reasons why we can become a subset of our projects instead of being the superset:

1. Inability to navigate in the “Chaordic Zone.” More and more projects are falling into the Chaordic Zone. The term “chaordic” was coined by Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of Visa credit cards. The Chaordic Zone is the territory between order and unbounded chaos (see Figure 1). In the Chaordic Zone, projects look like squiggly lines rather than neat waterfalls. They are jazz-like explorations rather than scripted performances such as in classical music.

For Chaordic Zone projects, speed is often at a premium within a context that is compounded by numerous interconnected parts …

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