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Why Project Management Should be an Ecosystem

Scholastic training is like growing vegetables in a Petri dish. When a newly minted project manager transfers their knowledge into the “real world” workplace, they encounter many factors that can disrupt the normal growth of a project. Like the interacting variables in an ecosystem (wind, rain, insect populations, soil chemistry, etc.) most projects are full of complexity. Mike Saville, in a white paper for PM World Journal, discusses the many factors that make project management a challenging, yet rewarding, occupation.

Why Project Ecosystems Collapse

Each organization is like its own separate biome, replete with fascinating “species” of roles, functions and variable practices. Some companies allow human resources to determine the necessary characteristics of the PM. Other companies lean on performance management teams. Still others utilize multi-agency partnerships to get the job done. It all depends on the unique needs and practices of the particular organization. When projects fail, they usually fail for at least one of three specific reasons:

  • Poor leadership
  • Poor planning
  • Lack of stakeholder engagement

The Maturity Curve

Such consistent failure can only come from a lack of alignment between what is being taught in the classroom and what is expected of the PM by various organizations. One way to assess the relative position of an organization is by assessing them on a maturity curve:

To extend the eco-system metaphor, some plants need to go in a hothouse before you dare put them outside, because they are not sufficiently robust and mature to deal with the elements, while other plants are hardy and can get by with benevolent neglect.

In other words, measuring a maturity curve allows the PM to gauge the particular culture they are entering, and so to apply their training appropriately. Seville offers several strategies for approaching the project environment as an ecosystem. For instance, creating a consistent set of processes and conditions allows for more predictable (and favorable) outcomes. In all, a sense of clarity, consistency, and resilience will ensure that your particular project ecosystem thrives.

Read the full paper at: http://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/pmwj24-jul2014-Saville-project-management-ecosystem-Advisory.pdf

About Eric Anderson

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Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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