PPPM: Project/Program/Portfolio Managementment – What’s wrong?

Project/Program Portfolio Management (PPPM)
By PH Lohnes, PMP

After spending over two years working as a project, program, and portfolio manager/consultant in support of a research endeavor at over 7 government agencies, 3 healthcare companies, and for 5 small-medium government contractors, I have come to the conclusion that the project management state of the practice is disoriented and in chaos. I say this only because over the past 20 years the number of certified project managers has increased by well over 100 times (4,000 to over 400,000) while the project success rates have not shown any material improvement with the small exception of Agile-type projects in the IT world.

What could be the cause of this disconnect? Here is my story, and it is only mine. I do not blame anyone or any institution – they are doing what they think is best to protect their own turf or philosophies. However, I bring up Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:

“Doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.”

By this definition, the current state of project management is decidedly crazy. We are continuing to do the same things over and over, but expecting that somehow the results will be marginally different. I point to the fact that next version of what is called the industry project management body of knowledge by its creators is fundamentally the same as the previous versions especially in the risk discipline. Project management is not the same as it was 20 years ago or even 5 years ago. We need to be dynamic and adaptive; flexible and applicable.

Therefore, what is the current state of the practice limiting our profession from achieving the results that our employers, clients, or customers desire?

Simply, we have become stifled in a liturgy of project management processes that look good on paper, but do not work in the real world. The profession is more interested in protecting its brand than protecting the best interests of those that procure its services. With a comparison to history, the project management profession is at the same point in time as the Western religions were at the beginning of the Reformation – processes are more important than production, form is more important than function, and ostentatiousness than outcomes.

The practice of project management is professionally bankrupt! Those of us that see this need to begin the steps of retaking the profession from those that have put us into this “process limiting” perspective, and rebuild it along the lines that provide value for our employers and clients. We need to show value for our mostly very expensive services – not continued low project success rates.

Over the next month, this blog will be discussing these topics and solutions. Join me for what will be an interesting if not a full out aggression to take our profession back from those that think it is simply a matter of more processes.

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