By Aaron Shenhar

December 2013

Next Generation Project Management – Part I Leading Strategic Projects and Having Fun

In spite of rapid changes in science and technology, the project management discipline is sill based on concepts that were established in the mid 60’s. While the PMBOK Guide and PMI’s PMP certification are important and necessary building blocks for the profession, it seems that traditional project management skills are no longer enough for today’s dynamic and innovative business needs.

Projects today are more complex, changing, and uncertain than ever. They are highly impacted by the business environment, and by innovation, and are facing increased urgency and pace. Furthermore, no project today is completed exactly as planned, and “one size does not fit all.” Few of these realities are being addressed by the traditional project management approach. The question is, what’s next in project management?

First, meeting the project’s time, budget and scope goals does not guarantee a successful project. Unless the project has met its business objectives, we cannot assume “mission accomplished.” Thus, projects today must be seen as business-related activities, and they should be managed with a strategic business-focused mindset to achieve the business results.

A second evolution is in starting to see the role of a project manager as a leader that needs to deal with creating the vision for the motivation and inspiration of the team. Finally, many projects today involve innovation, and project managers must learn to distinguish between different types of innovations and adapt their project to its context and specific environment. Agility is just one step in this direction. We must learn to combine innovation management into project management and select the right approach for each project.

The next generation of PM will transform project managers into leaders who must deal with the strategic and business aspects of their projects, build a vision to inspire and motivate their project team, while having fun, and know how to adapt their project to its specific level of innovation. The new world of project management is illustrated in the next figure. On top of traditional PM we must now build three new layers: The Dynamic Innovation Approach, the Inspired Leadership Perspective, and the Business Focused Strategic approach

The Strategic Project Leadership® (SPL) approach represents this new world. It was built on the foundation of traditional project management during twenty years of research and work with corporations. SPL helps organizations deal with their project’s innovation in a dynamic and adaptive way and focus their projects on business results by creating value, competitive advantage, and winning in the marketplace. This integrated, industry-proven, and PMI award-winning approach combines the business-related needs of projects, the operational aspects of getting the job done, and the leadership perspective of inspiring and motivating the team. SPL enables project teams to integrate Strategic Project Leadership into their current practices by building new skills on top of the existing PMBOK knowledge areas.

In a previous article I predicted that the next generation of project management will transform project managers into leaders who must deal with the strategic and business aspects of their projects, build a vision to inspire and motivate their project team, and correctly manage the specific level of innovation in their project. I described the Strategic Project Leadership® (SPL) approach for planning and running business-focused projects and for adapting projects to their specific innovation. In this article I will show specifically how deal with the innovation in your project by adapting the right project management style to the right level of innovation.

Innovation is defined as, “the commercialization of an idea.” Only when an idea is implemented and used, it becomes an innovation. That suggests that there is no innovation without a project, and every project is actually also an innovation. However, innovation management and project management are still treated as two distinct disciplines; and are being addressed by different communities, publications, and conferences. The “Diamond of Innovation” is integrating innovation and project management into one unified model that helps identify different types of innovations and select the right project management approach to each innovation. For example, since the innovation in a construction project is different than the innovation in building a space vehicle, each one of these projects must be managed in a different way. The question is how? Traditional project management and even recent agile techniques do not provide clear answers.

The “Diamond of Innovation” (see Figure 1) offers a framework for analyzing a project’s specific innovation context, selecting the right style, and planning the project for better success. The model includes four dimensions that characterize a project’s innovation, and each dimension is classified into four project types, impacting the project in different ways, and leading to different optimal management styles:

• Novelty – Market Innovation – How new is the product to your market and users. It impacts the effort and time it takes to clearly define the product’s requirements. Novelty is divided into the following types:
o Derivative, Platform, New-to-the-Market, New-to-the-World
• Technology – Technological Innovation – How much new technology is used. It impacts the number of design cycles needed and the time it takes before design freeze. Technology has the following levels:
o Low-tech, Medium-tech, High-tech, Super High-tech
• Complexity – Level of System Innovation identified by the complexity of the product or the organization. Complexity impacts the degree of formality and coordination needed to effectively manage the project. It has the following levels:
o Material/Component, Assembly/Subsystem, System, Array
• Pace – Urgency of the Innovation – How critical is your time frame. It impacts the time management and autonomy of the project management team. It has the following levels:
o Regular, Fast/Competitive, Time-Critical, Blitz

A unique Diamond of Innovation describes each project context, and the specific levels determine what is the best style for this project. The Diamond of Innovation helps analyze project difficulties, plan the right resources and schedules, calculate the needed slacks and contingencies, and even get a troubled project back on track.