Do you members of GTIM Nation know very many rich PMs? I know it kind of depends on one’s definition of “rich,” but the only truly wealthy PMs I know just happen to own companies that provide project controls specialists to contractors who run large very large facilities. That’s not to say that former Project Managers are rarely among the ranks of upper echelon of executives – quite the contrary, virtually all of the highly-placed executives I’ve met have at least some experience as a PM. A natural take-away from these anecdotal data points is that PMs become relatively wealthy once they stop doing Project Management exclusively, and bring that level of expertise to a different position, one that requires a broader-base of management expertise than can be attained through Project Management alone.
My thinking is that such a state of affairs is messed up. There simply has to be a way for the more advanced Project Managers to amass more wealth than, say, our friends the accountants (to be fair, the only wealthy accountants I know own their own bookkeeping or tax firms). We do, after all, have a far more advanced and nuanced grasp of management science writ large than those following the simplistic “maximize shareholder wealth” mantra. But the accountants have a very powerful ally in the management world: the taxman. In what has to be one of the both earliest and most powerful examples of a political/governmental structure essentially ensuring the success of one specific variety of business discipline, it’s simply illegal to run a commercial enterprise without doing accounting. One has to employ the double-entry bookkeeping system, and do so following a very specific (and massive) set of rules, or else risk imprisonment. Why? Because governments are funded by the taxes these companies generate, and the amount they generate is based on their books, which are set up and maintained by our friends, the accountants. So, running your business based on the information stream emanating from the accountants’ data feed seems natural, enlightened even. What’s a Project Manager to do?
Let’s start by stipulating that the eat-your-peas-style hectoring has never worked, does not currently work, and will never work. One of my oft-stated axioms is that you cannot advance a capability maturity by leveraging organizational power (you can’t make people get better at a thing). A readily-discernible corollary is that you can’t nag them into improving, either. Oh, sure, harping about how managers who eschew Earned Value or Critical Path methodologies are really dummies who don’t deserve their executive positions might provide some level of catharsis to the presenters at certain PM-centric conferences, but I seriously doubt they change anybody’s mind. And, if you think about it, the presenters at these conferences, with very few exceptions, actually pay money to push their ideas on the attendees, which is the exact opposite of monetizing PM. So, of the potential methods for monetizing PM, let’s scratch “nag executives into recognizing the value of the presenters’ cliched positions, and pay them and their like-minded colleagues more” off the list, shall we?
Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for monetizing any given business strategy would be to establish its ability to predict the future. Another Hatfieldian axiom is that, if you could give even a poor stock trader a copy of next week’s Wall Street Journal, such a one could pretty much start picking out the color of his soon-to-be-purchased Jaguar (the high-end car make, not the predatory feline). This is where our friends, the risk managers (no initial caps) come in, since they’re in the business of using Gaussian curves to do just that: quantify the future, in a way that provides meaningful information to PMs. Of course, pointing to a high-value information stream and actually delivering one are two very different things. And when I say they are in the business of providing such a feed, I really mean they make their particular take on management science appear attractive through a combination of two strategies: asserting that they can provide some sort of meaningful quantification of the future (they can’t), and the aforementioned eat-your-peas approach, but with a snarky overlay that shifts the narrative to “anyone not doing risk management is doing a poor job of managing in general, and Project Management in particular.” Risk management (they only got one initial cap because the term started the sentence) is a big business around the world, so I suppose this combination of pseudo-management science pushes is somewhat successful in monetizing PM. However, astrology is also big business, so there’s that.
Then there’s probably the most appropriate method of monetizing PM, that of documenting the clear link between those managers who have an appreciation and working knowledge of it, and their measurable instances of out-performing their PM-devoid colleagues. This gets rather tricky, though, due to that facet of human nature illustrated by the axiom “Victory has many fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Failed managers will never admit to having crashed their projects due to a lack of competence, while successful projects will have a seemingly never-ending list of business model proponents, anxious to pin the success on the presence of their favorite PM-related theme.
I don’t know, maybe the best way of monetizing PM is by making snarky comments about its detractors in a weekly blog, and awaiting a soon-to-be-realized payday…