Nature can be brutal. I’m not just talking about all those documentaries where zoomed-in praying mantises are chowing down on some other unfortunate insect, or where the cheetah actually catches the gazelle. Rather, I had in mind the footage of the various animals coming to the crocodile-infested watering hole to get a drink, all of their senses straining to notice the slightest perturbations in the water that would signal an imminent attack. One of the lighter versions of this story involves a mother elephant, essentially stomping a hapless croc into the mud while her baby gets its fill. My city’s municipal water supply may be notorious for pumping hard water, but, when I go to the kitchen faucet to get something to drink, at least I don’t have to worry about huge carnivores essentially unchanged since the Pliocene Epoch popping out of the pipes looking for a quick meal.
Meanwhile, Back In The Project Management World…
Then again, the other world that I inhabit does have some characteristics with such environs where certain errors can lead to (managerial) extinction, especially when macro-stressors hit the global economy. During such events, what management strategies will lead to greater business model robustness, and which themes or narratives, well, won’t?
Let’s use the example of the famed Hostile Takeover, the management world equivalent of a watering hole croc jumping up and swallowing a small mammal whole. What happens during a Hostile Takeover? The acquiring organization buys up the target company’s stock in an attempt to gain a controlling share, and then forces the target into bankruptcy. On an almost exclusive basis, the target company’s stock prices jump in value to mirror the new demand, meaning that the target’s shareholders are literally seeing their “wealth maximized.” Additionally, it’s also very common for the acquiring organization to fail to recoup the expense of the hostile takeover by selling off the target’s assets, meaning that the acquiring organization is definitely not maximizing their shareholders’ wealth. This being the case, why would any acquiring organization make the attempt in the first place, and why would the targets’ management resist?
It’s all due to market share, the coin of the Strategic Managers’ realm. By eliminating a competitor, those goods and services offered by the target are quickly removed from the marketplace, creating an opportunity for the acquiring organization to expand their percentage. So, what can be reliably inferred from the occurrence of a macro-stressor event in the middle of this market-share fight? Consider the major factor in any organization’s ability to restart after a slowdown (or even shutdown) event: the ability to retain or attract a loyal customer base. The relative wealth of the recovering organizations’ shareholders has very little to do with that organization’s ability to speedily rebound – in fact, it may be detrimental in those cases where retained earnings were distributed to said shareholders instead of paying down debt, creating reserves, or enhancing the customers’ experience. And, while market share is clearly essential, at the end of the day it has to be considered to be a trailing indicator. Market share may be influenced by the existence (or lack thereof) of competitors, but it’s the decisions of customers, both existing and potential, that drive the market share statistics, not the other way around. If the “maximize shareholder wealth” meme of the Asset Managers can’t inform the selection of management strategies to rebound after a slow/shutdown, and neither can the market share brass ring of the Strategic Managers, doesn’t that just leave Project Management?
Why, yes, yes it does.
Recall that the central tenets of PM, the so-called triple constraint of Scope, Cost, and Schedule, are all set by the customer, either directly or indirectly through the Request for Proposal, Bid, and Selection process. The Project Management realm is the only one exclusively focused on the customer – Asset Managers’ information streams deal with the assets internal to the organization, and the Strategic Managers’ focus is on the organization’s performance with respect to the competition. If your organization is really good at PM, either by setting up and maintaining an outstanding training/education system, or attracting (read: paying for) advanced talent in the PM realm, it falls to reason that such an organization will be far better positioned to withstand macroeconomic stressors, once some version of normalcy re-emerges.
In short, if your organization has chosen to pursue a robust PM capability, instead of basing its management strategies on “maximizing shareholder wealth” or elbowing aside competitors for more market share, you are in a position analogous to the baby elephant, approaching the macroeconomic watering hole after a long drought.
And mama elephant PMI® is right over your shoulder.