What does it mean to create an organizational project management capability, rather than a personal one? What does it mean as a project manager to give up our personal tools, techniques and capabilities – those that have made us successful to date, that we rely upon as the basis of what makes us a capable and competent project manager – in favour of an organizational capability? These are the essential challenges that any organization faces in trying to implement project management.
The inherent struggle, however, is that it is rarely thought of in these terms. The implementation of project management is all too often perceived as a technical problem to be solved, as are so many of our other projects. Rather than seeing the personal impacts, we see the concrete deliverables – the frameworks, processes, templates and software. Rather than treating it as the change management effort that it truly is, we see it as technical challenge of deliverables, milestones and checklists.
When we create an organizational project management capability, we are asking people to change. We are asking them to give up what they have today in favour of something new. This kind of change happens every day, of course. People replace old cameras, old computers, old television sets and old cars. The drive behind this replacement for many is the excitement and the appeal of what they will be able to do with the new replacement. It is the appeal of the extra features, the new capabilities, the better performance or the feeling of having the latest and the greatest.
When we implement project management, is that the feeling that is imbued within people in the organization? Are they genuinely excited by what is being offered, because they see themselves as being better, more effective and more capable? Does it give them the feeling of control, of having a better sense of ability? Does it make them feel better about themselves? If the answer is no – and the answer is all too frequently and depressingly ‘no’ – then, almost without exception, the implementation will fail.
People change to something better, not something worse. They adopt a new way of working because they perceive that it will be a material improvement over what was there before. They are not going to change because what they are getting is going to be less capable, less effective or less useful than what they already have.
If you are responsible for implementing project management, this is your challenge. It’s not about implementing the bare essentials, and building it up over time. It is about building something great, and making people want it because they simply can’t live without it. This is a marketing challenge rather than a methodology challenge. This isn’t about changing process, it’s about changing people.