The topic of Project Management is hot these days … very hot.
Panic Sets In
Panic begins when someone suggests a Project Management Office (PMO) capable of implementing a project management program that will apply the latest principles of project management in order to ensure a successful project delivery. So they turn to the Internet to find out how to manage a project. Or they take a two-day Project Management 101 seminar or some online project management course. In their quest to learn project management, they read project management articles and purchase the most popular project management software. They hire individuals who hold project management certifications.
But they quickly come to realize that each distinct source of project management documents promotes a different set of project management basics and recommends a different set of project management skills. But posing the greatest challenge of all, the newcomer to Project Management quickly discovers that there is intense competition and disagreement as to what is the best project management ideology. But if one is new to Project Management, how can they know how to choose (e.g., between the ideologies of Project Management Institute (PMI) and its PMBOK Guide, the Prince2 Project Management Methodology so popular in Europe and Australia)?
And if one works in the Construction Industry, are generic Project Management models (generalized to provide “something for everybody”) especially well suited for Construction Project Management in particular? So back to the Project Management books they turn to learn Construction Project Management. They learn about project cost management, project time management, project controls, and so much more. It all washes together.
Realizing that they need someone to help them make sense of it all, they turn to project management consulting firms to teach them “good project management.” Quickly they discover that the typical project management consultancy has a very distinct and limited agenda: either sell project management software, prepare for project management certification, or generate leads for construction claims work.
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Project Management boils down to Collaboration, Coordination, Cooperation, and Communication. None of these objectives can be accomplished without a coherent Project Schedule. Most such schedules are produced, not by professional schedulers, but instead by Project Managers and Site Superintendents. Unfortunately, 90% of these folks have received no credible training in how to plan a project! Hence, CPM Mechanics!
What is Project Management?
Projects don’t just happen. They are managed … carefully, skillfully, and effectively. So what exactly is Project Management? What is the definition of project management? As we see it, part of the confusion stems from the term being both a noun and a verb.
As a Noun
Start with the business entity that is responsible for “the project.” Who would this be?
- Project Owner: Of course there is always a Project Owner — the one paying for, and ultimately benefitting from, the Project.
- Design Professional: Both Architects and Engineers are also responsible for the project, from a design perspective.
- Contractors: Those who assume the responsibility of building the project include General Contractors and their subcontractors.
In each of these organizations, a separate Project Team is assembled that bears primary responsibility for the execution of “the Project,” from each organization’s unique perspective. In this sense, Project Management is an organization. And at the center of this Project Team is the Project Manager. There is hardly consensus among Project Management authorities as to the role of project manager, project manager responsibilities, project management qualifications, project manager skills, or project manager tools.
As a Verb
Project Management is also a management system that is implemented (hence, the verb) in order to insure the ultimate success of the project. Such systems are typically comprised of:
- Ideology: Values, beliefs, standards, goals, objectives, principles, etc.
- Methodology: Practices, processes, procedures, etc.
- Technology: Tools, Techniques, People, etc.
- Ecology: Operational Context
Project Management Ideology includes things like: project management principles, project management concept, the importance of project management, project management objectives, project management solutions, project management philosophy, and so forth. Project Management Methodology would encompass: project management steps, project management methods, each project management process, project management tasks, etc.
Project Management Technology include: project estimation techniques, project management tools and techniques, project management dashboard, project management checklist, project management tips, and so forth. Project Management Ecology would entail things like project management conditions, project management fundamentals, project organization, whatever project management information system is being used, the unique project organization structure, project management teamwork, and the like.
Project Management’s Terrible Track Record
Professional Project Management circles are hardly in agreement as to how best to achieve project success through Project Management. A quick Google search will confirm that the various international organizations dedicated to Project Management offer very different ideas on how to consistently deliver successful projects. Despite their gallant efforts of decades to formulate Best Practices, Standards of Practice, Certification, and Training … the failure rate of projects in the construction industry is at an all-time high – upwards of 70% by some surveys!
Finding a Better Way
ICS-Research has just completed a five-year study of Construction Project Management and reached the sobering conclusion that the prevailing wisdom with respect to Project Management is not especially well suited for construction projects. Tasked with finding a better way, ICS-Research developed Cognitive Project Management, which is designed specifically for the Construction Industry.
Dominant/Cognitive Project Management MODELS Defined
Throughout this website you will encounter the labels “Dominant Project Management” and “Cognitive Project Management.”
- Dominant Project Management: This is the name we have given to the entire conglomeration of current Project Management philosophies, ideologies, and models. It is our position that all of them, to date, are mostly too general to be an especially effective aid to Construction Project Management.
- Cognitive Project Management: This is the name we have given to a project management model that ICS-Research has designed and developed strictly for the Construction Industry. In the ways that it differs from Dominant Project Management it promises to revolutionize how construction projects will be managed in the future … hopefully toward more successful, consistent, and predictable temporal (and financial) outcomes.
Dominant and Cognitive Project Management Models Contrasted
Cognitive Project Management differs from Dominant Project Management in a number of significant ways. For instance,
There is No Such Thing as a “Typical” Project
Projects are not all the same. They differ greatly between and within industries. Dominant Project Management is built on the lowest common denominator across the widest swath of projects types, as if one size fits all. In the end, its recommendations seem more like “a jack of all trades, and master of none.” We believe that the Construction Industry deserves and needs its own, specially-tailored, project management model. Such a model should speak to the nuances of construction projects and to the challenges of Construction Project Management with far greater specificity and relevance than generic multi-industry recommendations.
Project Management is Collaborative, not Autocratic
Dominant Project Management programs employs a Command-and Control philosophy for driving a project to completion, believing that the tighter the controls, the more certain a successful project outcome. Unfortunately, this theory is disproved by decades of failed projects. Contrast this with Cognitive Project Management’s emphasis on Collaboration, Cooperation, Coordination, and Communication. As a Project Management philosophy, we believe that Project Collaboration is far more effective than Project Control. There is a growing community of support for what is fast becoming known as Collaboration Project Management or Collaborative Project Management.
Project Management is Not Monolithic
Dominant Project Management envisions one Project Management model, with one Project Manager figurehead, and one Project Schedule. Cognitive takes a different view.
Cognitive F.A.C.E. Diamond
As we see it, Project Management is comprised of FOUR distinct management domains, not just one. Each domain has its own organizational structure, skills sets, processes, and success criteria. We call this the Cognitive F.A.C.E. Model, reflecting the acronym its components form. For more about the Cognitive F.A.C.E. Model, click here.
Cognitive T.I.M.E. Framework
Project Management is a fractal. Thus, it – and Project Time Management, its key subset – is equally, better understood through the Cognitive T.I.M.E. Framework, reflecting the acronym its components form.
- Ecology: This is the “operational context” of the project. All successful project management begins by fully understanding the conditions and circumstances under which the project will be performed.
- Ideology: Each performing organization has its own behavioral culture to start with. This underlying management climate must be tempered and modulated based on the insights gained from diagnosing the Project Ecology.
- Methodology: Only after important ideological decisions have been reached can/should project management methodologies be selected and tailored to the specific project.
- Technology: The final puzzle piece is the technical infrastructure of project management, one that is compatible with the Project Ideology, and supportive of the Project Methodology.
Project Execution: The Epicenter of Project Management
Project Execution is where the rubber meets the road. The other three domains of the Cognitive Project Management model exist and operate to support Project Execution. “As Project Execution goes, the Project goes.”
Project TIME Management: The Key to Effective Project Execution
For centuries, wise adages have acclaimed the importance of strategic planning and coordinated execution. How about “plan your work and work your plan,” or “those who fail to plan, plan to fail?” While the vital role of Project Time Management has been broadly acknowledged, the great dichotomy in Dominant Project Management is that Project Executors are only marginally or passively involved in Project Time Management.
Cognitive Project Management argues that Project Time Management is more, much more, than the simplistic, outdated and limited practices of traditional “Planning and Scheduling.” There are two sides to the Project Time Management coin (not just one): those who provide temporal information … and those who consume that information to achieve the highest level of Project Time Management.
As we see it, Dominant Project Management centers virtually all its Project Time Management practices on the providers of informational products and services … with next to no regard for how or whether that information will be used by its consumers (Project Executors, in particular).