I like the title of the latest Pulse of the Profession report by PMI. It’s a little long and it feels like they tried to squish a lot into the title:
Success in Disruptive Times - Expanding the Value Delivery Landscape to Address the High Cost of Low Performance
See what I mean? All in one title they are trying to cover:
- Value Delivery
- An expanded view of project success
- There’s a high cost to underperforming
- The issues with the current state of projects and project management
But in reality, these things are related, so I applaud the report. In particular, I like the idea of ‘expanding the landscape’. Why? Landscape usually implies a horizontal view, as we know from our use of PowerPoint slides – the A4 or 8.5x11 paper is turned so that the longer dimension is horizontal. We're going for a broader, wider, more panoramic, all-encompassing view. And that’s how I think of a project’s schedule… think of a Gantt chart… start on the left, end on the right… in ‘landscape mode’. But instead of stopping at the project's 'end date'... we expand our view a little... further... out.
Here’s how this very important report opens:
“The traditional measures of scope, time, and cost are essential but no longer sufficient in today’s competitive environment. The ability of projects to deliver what they set out to do—the expected business benefits—is what organizations need. When determining project success, we analyzed levels of benefits realization maturity as well as the traditional measures.”
Translation: PMI, as we did back in 2010 with our book Green Project Management, are recognizing the idea of thinking through – thinking past – the project end date to days, months, years, even decades and centuries after the project is handed over to its customer. They are acknowledging that bringing benefits to customers, to the organization, and the world at large, must be considered in planning a project.
This is huge!
PMI goes on to compare what they call Champions* and Underperformers** and notes what distinguishes the two. Not surprisingly, a mature attitude towards benefits realization – which is really just another way of saying sustainability thinking – are in the former category.
* CHAMPIONS: Organizations with 80% or more of projects being completed on time, on budget, meeting business intent, and having high benefits realization maturity.
**UNDERPERFORMERS: Organizations with 60% or fewer projects being completed on time, on budget, meeting business intent, and having low benefits realization maturity.
In the body of the report, they say:
"1 in 3 organizations report high benefits realization maturity. A key challenge many companies face is managing projects based only on traditional outputs—such as time, scope, and budget—without consistently tracking whether they help the organization achieve its larger strategic goals. Benefits, tangible and intangible, should be considered in the equation."
Did you catch that? Tangible and intangible. They’re talking about the triple bottom line. Benefits, of course, should include economic measurements. Money makes the world go around. But not all of the benefits are economic. Some are social. Some are ecological. And guess what? They all count. Not only that, some of the intangible benefits come right back around and pay economic benefits, and not always so far out in the future. Ask Patagonia. Ask Interface. Ask Southwest Airlines. Or just read this. And/or read this. Both are well-researched, recent reports that demonstrate the connection between stock and economic performance based on viewing success in the longer term – i.e. sustainability or Triple Bottom Line thinking.
But let’s get back to projects and project management. Is it actually possible that enterprises which focus on outcomes – longer-term outcomes – benefits realization – whatever you want to call this – actually have more successful projects?
Well, yes. Yes, exclamation point. The data says yes. Have a look at this chart which maps resulting project performance based on what PMI calls “Value Delivery Capability Maturity” but what I’ll call ‘thinking past the end of the project’, because, well, that’s what it is.
In every case where important measures such as ‘on time, within budget, meeting goals’, the green bar – representing the organizations who think past the end of the project – outperform those who think only in terms of scope, schedule, and cost. Notably, the number of project deemed failures is almost TWICE AS HIGH in enterprises which take the limited, ‘triple constraint’ view.
That’s food for thought – food for thinking – food for thinking past the project’s end date. Isn't it?
Read more about this in the actual report, linked here.