Juha Huovinen
May 24, 2013
Posted in category: 2013 Member Articles

Engineering Science Will Not Solve Projects

We all know how to prepare for an enterprise resource planning project that changes the way our company operates.

Enterprise architecture is designed as according to TOGAF-framework, the supplier is chosen based on an Excel sheet analysis, and all the necessary project tasks are lined up in Gantt charts. Also, to properly lead the project, a war room is established, where the whole project and its progress is charted on the walls. The enemy is every change-resistant end-user, and it is our task to find the potential change agent among them – as directed by the change management practices.

Does this sound familiar? If not, you shouldn’t apply to be the project lead in any ERP project, as those just mentioned are the best practices in our field.

Is there room, or heaven forbid, a need for another type of thinking in projects?

What if, projects need role models instead of change agents. Notice how much easier it is to identify a role model than a change agent, and above all, how we would all prefer to be role models rather than change agents? It is also easier to understand what is expected of a role model.

What if, instead of complicated process charts, we describe the flow with a cartoon of how we see the operations changing. We would send the cartoon to all the employees and ask feedback, for instance, through social media. Then, the one who used to be the enemy, would become the expert, who just might have a great understanding of how the operations can be improved.

What if, we chose the supplier like we were deciding who is our best friend. With whom do we have the most in common? Who is willing to go all in for our project? With whom would we want be during the most difficult times in our career? If none seem like a friend, don’t choose anyone.

These types of new thoughts are often torpedoed by claims that projects, and especially managing them, requires systematic and disciplined approach. Yes, I agree. But I do reject the idea that only engineering science offer the needed systematic approach.

Every significant piece in art history was born out of disciplined and systematic work. The frescoes in the Sistine Chapel took nearly 12 years of very meticulous and systematic painting work.

I believe that our view of the best practices, when it comes to project management, will change drastically during this decade. Could Finland be the front runner in this?


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