Project Management

Open Up Your Innovation Toolbox

Elvin Turner and Tony-Ryce Kelly

Predicting the trajectory of a project has never been tougher. Asked to lead increasingly ambiguous projects against a rapidly changing backdrop, yet with no flexibility on deadlines, project managers are among the most stressed individuals that we meet.

Part of the problem is the project manager’s toolbox: Most methodologies were designed to manage complex yet largely predictable journeys. But as the lines between project management and product development blurred, many managers found their role needed a blend of tools—those that manage efficient delivery and others that allowed for more discovery-led work, testing assumptions about a project that no one had yet fully validated.

Based on work inside dozens of global organizations, here are some principals that can help project managers balance these difficult tensions and upgrade their innovation toolbox.

Be firmer about flexibility

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” said businessman and author Max De Pree. The same could be said of a project charter, which in theory is the guiding light for any project. In fact, depending on the context, project charters can do more harm than good. In the wrong hands they can become an incontestable millstone around the project team’s neck that perfectly delivers something that nobody needs.

Allowing charters to have a flexible focus is crucial. One …

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"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."

- Mark Twain