Lacking in Principles?
Project management has been around for centuries. Associations
around the world that espouse and promote project management have been around
for decades. So-called "modern" project management has been around for years.
They all have one thing in common - a lack of principles. To be more precise,
we mean a set of basic project management principles providing a universal reference
baseline for generally acceptable "practices".
A set that would be the benchmark for judging the actual performance
on projects with a view to improving future proficiency. "But
there is no shortage of recommended principles and practices in
the market place, just read the literature" we hear the cry!
True, there is available an abundance of good advice variously described
as principles, practices, or just plain rules. One Hundred Rules
for NASA Project Managers, though written with tongue-in-cheek,
has a wealth of common sense and is a good example. (http://www.altisinc.com/Links/100_Rules.html)
The problem is that there is a distinct fuzziness when it comes to distinguishing between principles, practices and rules.
What is needed is a set of "First Principles", perhaps seven or
so - a number that the mind can readily grasp. Each of these first
principles would express a basic concept or idea, be essential to
the successful conduct of a project and its deliverables, provide
the basis for supporting practices, and can be validated and justified
as to value through research analysis and testing. Collectively,
this set of principles would provide a solid foundation for the
building of a broad-based project management professional discipline
Recently there has been some focus in this direction. The Project Management
Institute has launched an initiative to discuss this topic. In July 1999, the
PMForum published a paper titled "Fundamental
Principles" by Wideman. But the amount of interest shown in this highly
philosophical but essential topic has been under whelming.
It seems that most people prefer to tout their own particular brand
of project management quite regardless - academe included. Is it
any wonder that there is so much miscommunication, disagreement,
disarray and lack of progress in the real world of project management?