A Learning-based view of Project Management

In an increasingly complex and changeable/ chaotic environment I find that in many instances traditional control based project management approaches don’t work or don’t add value. Take Prince 2, for example, the clue is in the title – PRojects IN Controlled Environments.

Project and organisational boundaries are increasingly permeable and managers need to manage between constantly changing and competing demands of diverse stakeholders in and beyond their organisation. The uncertainty this situation generates makes prediction and planning very difficult – a point well recognise din strategic management. Linear cause and effect models that underpin many project management methodologies are not appropriate in this context as projects are operating with often inadequate knowledge as well as changing and ambiguous stakeholder expectations. In other words, project environments aren’t always in control! Projects in such complex and dynamic contexts have both the great opportunities as well as the enormous frustrations of any learning process. So I’d suggest that project management processes and methodologies should be placed in a broader learning framework. As a first stab at drawing this out:

Projects as Learning

Obviously this is a work in progress so any feedback would be great …. (apologies for the messy look)

I suppose the focus here is on aligning across and managing stakeholder expectations as a way to frame the knowledge gaps. Also, plans become a baseline against which reality can be assessed but all realities are more chaotic, complex and dynamic than any plan could or should capture. A project is focused on generating value that works towards the original vision within that complexity – grabbing opportunities and avoiding pratfalls along the way. The project managers/ leaders role is to challange, inspire and communicate – to assist team members self-manage and reflect and and review and revise the models used to meet the situational context they’re in.

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