Karl Landsteiner performed the seminal work in blood typing at the beginning of the 1900s, and would receive the Nobel Prize in medicine for it in 1930[i]. His discovery of the different plasma types would allow for safe transfusions, which is critical in many medical procedures. The first successful human-to-human transfusion had occurred in 1818[ii]; however, without the ability to screen for type, there was always a risk of a transfusion reaction which, in rare instances, can be fatal[iii] -- except, interestingly, in the case of A, B, or AB patients receiving O-type blood. Anybody can receive that type without the risk of a transfusion reaction.
Meanwhile, Back In The Project Management World…
In the Program/Project Management world there are many instances where an existing program, portfolio, or facility will change management teams, with the highest level execs often invoking the metaphor of “bringing in new blood.” Even in organizations where this isn’t done wholesale, the introduction of a new executive, or Chief Executive or Operations Officer (CEO/COO), will almost automatically entail a different management philosophy, driving a change in technical agenda or implementation strategy. Unless the outgoing CEO or management team is retiring, there’s a reason for their departure, and fully acceptable performance probably isn’t it. But if the organization is figuratively bringing in new blood, how does anyone know if these new approaches are compatible with the existing organization?
Whether the evaluation for compatibility is being done on a person (via the job ad/resume collection/interview process) or a team (via the Request for Proposal/evaluation/contract award process), the people making the decision almost always look for a history of similar work having been successfully conducted in the recent past. I believe this skirts past another, critical parameter: were the candidates’ previous organizations analogous to the new one(s)? The new exec/management team will arrive at their new assignment with their own extensive stacks of education and experience, technical approaches and implementation strategies. It’s basic human nature to expect that those approaches and strategies that worked previously will work in the novel environment to which they are being transferred and, if they don’t, well it’s likely to be a fault of the existing organizational/facility personnel, or culture. Re-evaluating whether or not the previous success of the particular
blood type technical approach is counter-indicated for the new patient organization is usually not a consideration. Of course, there are far too many parameters to establish one reliable standard or Litmus Test for whether or not the new technical agenda is incompatible with the existing organization. There are, however, a couple of clues that can help indicate when that’s the case.
Clue #1: look for the phrase “culture change” in any of the communications of mission statement, objective, or goals of the new line. The use of this phrase points to a canned approach which has probably already been determined a priori, and it’s up to the organization to accommodate this method. Also, use of this phrase is an indicator that the aspects of the various PM business models that could serve as alternatives have not been vetted, and the advancement of the Project Management capability may be seen as an organizational behavior and performance issue.
Clue #2: GTIM Nation knows of my fondness for the Maccoby Archetypes, The Gamesman, Company Man, Craftsman, and Jungle Fighter. Of the four, The Gamesman is the only type that has a high probability of readily recognizing when a canned strategy is unlikely to succeed, and pivoting to one that has a better chance. Craftsmen care deeply about their output, but are not otherwise known for embracing the kind of risk inherent in changing a traditional technical approach broadly. If the new person/management team is comprised mostly of Company Men, forget about it. These are far more comfortable with a failed outcome as long as they can establish that they had done everything by the book. And Jungle Fighters? Puh-leeze. They wouldn’t recognize a novel-but-optimal technical approach if it fell out of the sky, landed on their faces, and started to wiggle.
If your organization is suffering from symptoms of frayed leadership style, inchoate technical agenda communications, or a reversal in PM capability maturity, it may be suffering from Technical Agenda Transfusion Reaction. I wonder if we could persuade PMI® to open an emergency room at the Newton Square facility…
[i] Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/karl-landsteiner-4584823 on 9 August 9, 2021, 11:51 MDT.
[ii] Retrieved from https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/what-happens-to-donated-blood/blood-transfusions/history-blood-transfusion.html on 9 August 9, 2021, 11:55 MDT.
[iii] Retrieved from https://ashpublications.org/blood/article/113/15/3406/24952/Transfusion-related-mortality-the-ongoing-risks-of on 9 August 9, 2021, 12:02 MDT.