Project Management

The Practical Work of Making Process Make Sense

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

The life of a project manager centers around processes. To some, that is appealing. They like the structure, the formality, the rigor and the detail. It gives them comfort and confidence that they have dotted, crossed, cross-referenced, codified and confirmed all the nitty-gritty details of the project they are responsible for and the people they coordinate.

There are others, of course, who run screaming in the other direction for precisely the same reasons. Not only do they not value the detail, they do not see the point. Forms, checklists and templates seem like bureaucracy run rampant. Rather than getting on with the meaningful work they are responsible for, their desks and their inboxes are awash in unnecessary, unvalued and unasked-for paperwork.

You might read the descriptions above, and presume that the first passage describes project managers and the second reflects the team members who they victimize. While this can certainly be true, the descriptions can readily cut both ways. Team members (and sponsors) can obsess over details that the project manager considers both well in hand and micromanagerial overreach. There are also, thankfully, project managers who take a pragmatic view of the processes that they manage and how they serve the projects they are responsible for.

Speaking personally, I have inhabited pretty much the full extent of the process spectrum.…

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A conference is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.

- Fred Allen