Project management in North America has a long way to go to fulfil its potential.
This is partly because there are many notions about what project management is and partly because a proportion of people involved in project management are giving their abilities more credit than is actually due. And too many organizations are encouraging their people to run from task to task with little time for reflection or planning that’s meaningful in the face of the present challenges.
The North American news media are littered with stories of failed projects. For example, the launch of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) registration website was a disaster – whatever technology problems might have been encountered along the way, the actual failure certainly has at its foundation a failure of project management. It needn’t have been that way, if the stakeholders had been briefed better and the associated impacts accurately assessed, they could have easily taken action to rectify it earlier. Projects don’t go off the rails of their own will. Anyone with some amount of time in IT will likely recognize similarities to this project within their own organization. This is not a problem unique to government!
Ultimately, any project management team is responsible for a project’s outcomes and it needs to have the right tools, delegated responsibility to act and a means of communicating to stakeholders that resources and funding are being used appropriately.
For any organizational activity, you need to be able to answer: why are we doing this, what’s the value and for whom? If we can’t answer these questions, the activity is, by definition, suspect! It’s not enough to plead “but we’re busy”; a distinction is needed between “busy-ness” and effective action – and project management is the antidote.