PM’s Legacy (?)

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Scene: Far into the future, a professor leads a small team of graduate students around the ruins of multiple buildings. One tall young man begins asking the professor a question.

“It’s amazing to think that all of this was only recently discovered when the New Philadelphia Subway Bullet Train extension project accidentally came across it. What evidence do we have that this was the site of the discovery and propagation of Project Management?”

“A few things” the professor responds. “But to explain it you have to know some things about the way the ancients viewed the management sciences. Back then, they had three levels in their managerial caste system, and the most insightful were comprised of people they referred to as ‘accountants,’ but we know them as beancounters. We know this because, of the very few electronic records that survived the Coronal Mass Ejection of 2056, their ledgers were far more common than the artifacts from the Project Managers, or even the Strategic Managers.”

A young woman graduate student with red hair speaks up.

“It’s hard to imagine a time when Project Managers were rejected for their beliefs.”

“Wait a second” interjects the first young man. “Isn’t ‘rejected’ kind of a strong word?”

“Perhaps” responds the professor. “But ‘ignored’ is probably too kind a word. You see, back then they didn’t see Asset, Strategic, and Project Management as co-equal, vital aspects of conducting business. Since the government collected taxes solely on the basis of the profit-and-loss statement, every business had to have a robust Asset Management capability, whereas having any PM capability at all was purely optional.”

“’Optional’ only in the sense that a business wants to succeed” adds the red head.

“We know that now, but back then only the best-run organizations had embraced it, and they weren’t about to tell their competitors the key to success.”

“But that information was widely available, wasn’t it?” asks an eager, blonde man.

“Yes, and that’s part of the reason I’ve brought you to this dig. We have reason to believe that the high levels of project success we’ve enjoyed as a civilization may have started here. Over one thousand years ago, this place was called ‘Newton Square,’ and this particular set of buildings housed the Project Management Institute®.”

“Wait” exclaims the tall young man. “Are you talking about the Project Management Institute®, the immediate predecessor to the Galactic Management Institute?”

“The same, the very same” responds the professor.

“I thought that was a just a legend” adds another student.

“No, it was very real. And, when they began their work of discovering, refining, and publishing their findings, it challenged much of the conventional wisdom of the time. For example, many companies were comparing time-phased budgets to actual costs to try and get a handle on their cost variances.”

At this, the group giggles.

“Didn’t they know about Earned Value?”

“Sure, thanks mostly to the Project Management Institute®. But the practice went on for some time. These companies were also known to ‘manage’ their schedules based on lists of action items.” The group gasps in astonishment.

“Perhaps that’s because they had such simple projects back then.”

“No, we know that they could and did perform projects with thousands, or even tens of thousands of activities. But, again, only the most successful companies used Critical Path Methodology, and the others, well, made do.”

“Wait a second, professor” interjects the eager blond man. “If ancient managers’ main source of information was from the accountants, and they had only uneven access to Project Management information systems, how did they know which tasks required their direct attention, and which could be left mostly alone? Even back then the managers’ time wasn’t infinite.”

“That’s a good question. There is some speculation that ancient PMs may have been forced to use a variation of Gaussian Curve analysis that attempted to predict which activities were ‘riskier’ than the others. They called this approach ‘risk management.’”

“No … way!” the entire group exclaims, in unison.

“Really. There are actual paper fragments of the document that led post-apocalypse analysts to believe that the Project Management Institute® may have been an actual organization, the predecessor to the Galactic Management Institute, and these fragments make reference to risk management.”

“What are the odds?” the red head jokes, and the group laughs.

“It would have been so interesting to live in those times” the tall man speculates. “Knowing what we know now, of course.”

“I’m afraid it might not have helped all that much” rejoins the professor. “Do you see this manuscript, which one of my colleagues unearthed two weeks ago? That fellow wearing those fabric bands over his shoulders, known back then as ‘suspenders,’ we speculate was an accountant. See how he sneers at the woman across the meeting table? Now, take this magnifier, and zoom in on her lapel pin, the gold object on her shirt.”

“P … M…P … what’s a PMP®?”

“It was the main certification of the Project Management Institute®. We believe it stood for ‘Project Management Professional®.’ But look at the contempt with which the accountant holds her. We believe that most of the era’s universities and business colleges taught that the point of all management was to ‘maximize shareholder wealth,’ leading to PMs being seen as possessing an alternate management science world view.”

“Absolutely amazing, all of this. Thank you so much for bringing class out to this site, professor” begins the red head. “But tell us, wasn’t there anybody who had insights about the true nature of management science, and Project Management’s place in the overarching structure?”

“Well, there was this one group of people known as ‘bloggers’…

Posted on: September 10, 2019 10:23 PM | Permalink

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