Product and Project Managers: Managing Beneficial Change by Truly Working Together
Stacy, thanks for joining me today.
Results are an important measure of performance. However, I understand that an evolution in the thinking about results is currently taking place within the project management community. What’s your take on this?
(Stacy Goff) Yes, for some we are seeing an evolution in thinking. And I assert that some long ago evolved to the insight you speak of. Some people in the project management discipline think that project success is all they are after. And the most unfortunate among these otherwise savvy people focus on the easy-to-measure, but often lagging indicators of the “triple constraint” or other triangle schemes. Others have always demonstrated the “bigger picture;” these practitioners actually deliver business success. This is often very different than merely showing project success.
So this can become an entire article by itself, but the evolution is that there are some, including entire professional associations, that have long-advocated the easy to memorize, easy to test factors of project management. These people and groups have recently realized that those factors, while important foundations, do not add value by themselves. They are now pivoting to embrace the elements and competences of project and program management that do add value.
As a representative of several professional associations that have demonstrated this understanding for many years, I predict another looming insight: The realization that knowledge, skill, and even true competence, across the full suite of Project Management elements, do not automatically add value. These are merely inputs. They need to be correctly applied, with the right leadership and interpersonal skills, and well-managed within the business context, to reach the needed result: Improved business performance. Only then are we adding value.
The winner is not just the project teams that in the past worked their hearts out to little acclaim; and not the organizations that will begin to receive what they have all-along been paying for. The winner should be thriving nations and a global economy that benefits from the elimination of the huge waste of failed project initiatives and broken promises—and the realization of the originally intended 3:1 return on project investment that we were often promised and never saw. That is a results-oriented performance measure.
Over the last several years I have had the pleasure of collaborating with you on a variety of different efforts. I know how passionate you are about creating effective collaborations across the distinct professional disciplines. What is the driver behind your passionate belief that professional silos need to be overcome?
(Stacy Goff) Maybe it is because I came to this discipline in a different time, and in a different way. I was a practicing Project Manager in the 1970s. Next I moved to Program Manager (end-to-end complex, multi-organization, multi-project initiatives, including the ongoing operation of the result). Then I moved to Manager roles. In my managerial roles I was very much involved in Strategic Planning. My time horizon moved from 6-36 months to 6-36 years, so to speak.
It was through this series of roles that I learned the need for all disciplines and all stakeholders to have the same business success objectives, and to understand the clear delineation of roles of each in reaching those objectives. When I moved to project management/strategic planning consulting in 1982, I thought everyone understood the insights that I took for granted.
In my consulting engagements with major Consultancies, and with Aerospace & Defense contractors in the mid 1980s, I was able to bring together the different disciplines throughout the life cycle to eliminate a then-common problem: Big bid wins, but poor handoffs between the players; no profit, and few follow-on opportunities. We brought together Business Development Managers, Contract Managers, Proposal Managers, Program Managers, Change Managers (for internal initiatives) and Operations Managers in one team, and then allowed primary responsibility for each initiative segment to shift with the timing.
Whether we called it Four-Square or Integrated Product Teams, Integrated Leadership Teams, or Concurrent Engineering, it was difficult to begin but incredibly powerful once working. A typical Executive argument before-hand was that it would be too expensive. Afterwards, it became a consistently-demanded approach, that became their competitive advantage; they won more bids, and made more profit on bids won. They couldn’t believe that anyone could operate the old way.
I have a blog post at my Change Agents blog series that focuses on the disciplines working in parallel. See: http://asapm.org/chgagent/project-managers-playing-nice-with-others/.
Do you think the new ProdBOK Guide will help span some of these divides at the professional level?
(Stacy Goff) I think it can; from the project manager’s perspective, the participation you have achieved, with some of the best Project Management thinkers and writers helps. Of course, we need to encourage project managers to get access to it, then to actually read and understand it. Unfortunately, I have seen too many PM practitioners who took a class, took a test, and then thought their mastery was complete—when all they have done is to build a good foundation. They may not be interested in the insights your writers and editors have shared.
Of course, there are also many incredibly competent, high-performing Project Managers, Senior Project Managers and Program Managers at work today—many of them already understand your key points. Ironically, although they already grasp much of what you will share, they will be more likely to benefit by learning more. I think it would be interesting to track this hypothesis in your next survey: The ones who could benefit most will be least likely to read it.
Or said another way: Only the savvy Project Managers will make the effort to read it.
Why did you decide to contribute to the ProdBOK Guide effort Stacy?
(Stacy Goff) Several reasons, including the fact that I was urged to by people whose work I respect, and whom I trust. Thanks to Gary Heerkens, for example, who originally suggested that I participate. Next, once in contact with you, you answered my questions with responses that revealed a passion for doing what was right. And because I believe that the efforts of your teams can result in more successful projects and programs that more-effectively cooperate with other disciplines in product management initiatives. The result will be perceived by all stakeholders as successful.
Any final thoughts or comments?
(Stacy Goff) Those who know me well understand the risk of that question. We have barely scratched the surface in this discussion. But we have established some parameters for more dialogue between the disciplines we have discussed.
Thank you Greg!
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.
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