On The Project Manifesto


“The Guiding Principles of the Project Economy” by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez

On October 3rd, 2019, Antonio Nieto-Rodriquez published an article on LinkedIn proclaiming that we are in need of a Project Manifesto.

I was intrigued by Antonio’s proposal to comment on the 12 principles and to elaborate on this manifesto through co-creation.

My preliminary conclusion

I love this initiative!

And even though the principles need work, getting some global and international co-creation going, the Project Manifesto might become a strong set of guidelines for all those involved. And I think we need it. Projects, project results, project management: it’s not doing a good job of selling itself. There’s potential there!

Although there is one thing that I haven’t seen solved or addressed yet, and that is the mentioned complexity of project management methodologies:

…project management methods have tended to be too complex to be easily understood and applied by non-experts.

Is this a trigger for a manifesto? Or is the manifesto meant to address this issue?

And finally, I think the manifesto is not yet ‘actionable’ enough. You should be able to live by or adhere to these twelve principles, but I feel that some of them are mere statements at this stage. They need to be turned into beliefs or convictions (without taking on the appearance of holy dogmas).

Discussion

The article has many valid comments, insights, disagreements and cheers and I felt like looking at each principle in a bit more detail.

I think each principle should be formulated in a strong way that makes it clear, even to readers who are not familiar with projects, what the supporters of the manifesto stand for and what they believe.

The principles are sometimes statements that, even though I agree with them, are not always principles by which we can be guided.

But I feel each principle in itself is deserving of a full article. I would like to gather some of the feedback given by others and focus on each principle in a separate follow-up post.

But for now, let’s see what this manifesto is all about. And don’t be afraid to comment!

12 principles

1. We acknowledge that governments implement policies through projects and that countries develop and societies evolve through projects; we believe that ideas are made a reality through projects and that, if one-day poverty is eradicated from the earth, it will be through a project.

I guess the message here is that we (as in: the people who believe in and uphold this manifesto) view projects as vehicles for change, not only in business or personal life, but also on a much larger scale and even beyond the limits of borders or local goals. And I wholeheartedly agree!

In short: we acknowledge that projects drive valuable local and global change.

2. We believe projects are the lingua franca of governments, businesses, and personal worlds, from the C-suite right through to an individual managing their career and relationships.

The second principle puts projects forward as THE common means by which we all can have a common understanding of our careers and relationships. I think it’s an interesting way of looking at projects, as a common language between potentially very different actors. The term “project” can still benefit from a wider adoption in governments, businesses and yes, even personal lives, but only if we define it well. Even though project management methodologies are complex, they do define clearly what a project is. As long as we keep that in mind, I agree that projects can be better positioned as a lingua franca.

In short: well, I couldn’t summarize this any shorter. Projects ARE the lingua franca. Period.

3. We are uncovering a new vast disruption; due to the new reality of accelerated change, more and more aspects of our lives are driven by projects, and more and more aspects in organizations are becoming projects; projects are thus becoming an essential element in everyone’s professional and personal journeys.

Ah, disruption! Much revolves around disruption nowadays, and rightfully so. Even if we seem to be nearing or have just entered a fourth industrial revolution, I am still awaiting a new singularity which would profoundly changes our lives, for the better I hope! (AI, I’m looking at you!)

This third principle apparently leads to some debate. The reality of accelerated change is maybe not new. And I would say that more and more aspects, if not all, are provoked by change. And then it would make sense to me that these aspects are becoming projects.

Bottom line is that I agree with the notion that projects are an essential element in professional and personal journeys, we just don’t label them as such.

In short: this third principle could do with a rephrasing. It deserves some further thought.

4. In a world that is becoming increasingly automated and robotized, we see projects as the most human-centric way of working.

Hmmm… interesting. I’m not sure if a project run entirely with computers or AI in the ‘team’ would not be considered a project. And projects, as opposed to not-projects, would not be the only way of human-centric working.

The idea however is that project management or leadership will focus more on the human side of the project, thereby delegating some of the technical, logistical, administrative side to AI.

This principle made me reflect on the object of this manifesto. Is it a manifesto on projects? Or on project management? Or both? Do we consider the value of project management only in the wake of a manifesto on projects? Or should one be part of the other? Or inferred?

In short: project management will shift focus towards human interaction and collaboration, and though the idea behind this principle somehow makes sense, it needs a rephrasing.

5. We believe that organizational agility is achieved through projects, which breakthrough silos, reduce management layers and create high-performing teams.

This is a clear and good principle. There is much talk about agility. But you can replace the word by adaptability if you want. The principle still holds true. I see a relationship with the ‘gig economy‘. Agile organisations need to change course, realize that course change with a project, and get the right people to do the project, for as long as the project takes. And then we move on.

In short: well said!

6. We recognize that start-ups and organizations innovate, grow, transform, create long-term value, and achieve their visions and strategic goals through projects; founders, entrepreneurs, and CEOs are the ultimate project leaders.

I feel this is maybe iterating a bit on what has been said already: stuff happens via and through projects.

In short: yes, but how is this principle different from the others? What is the actual principle we would adhere to?

7. We consider our lives to be a set of projects; studies have become projects, and careers have become a series of projects too.

I see some similarities with principle #3. Yes, I would consider my life to be a set of projects for sure, and I have the Teamwork.com site (referral link) to prove it (ha!), and it even is a good principle to be guided by, but there is redundancy here.

In short: agreed, but seems same as #3.

8. Our highest priority is to deliver projects better, to reduce the failure rate, to create more value for individuals and organizations, and to create more sustainable development in our economies and societies at large.

This is a good principle, especially on the creating value side of projects. We should indeed find ways to better monitor our progress towards value creation. But aren’t there already methods for this? Are we not using them?

In short: agreed, more value!

9. We see that projects and project implementation have received very little attention and have been ignored by leading business thinkers, management publications and business schools; we believe that in the past years this deficiency is being rectified.

I agree with the statement, but I find the principle rather week. So by principle we believe that this lack of attention is being rectified? A stronger principle would be to actively promote the benefits and value, on individual, corporate, local and cross-border scale of projects and project implementation (and not merely observe that things are being rectified).

In short: we can make this principle stronger! That way, we can act by it.

10. We recognize project-based education as the best and most enduring learning experience for students and adults.

I tend to agree, but I would need to get more details on and insight in project-based education.

In short: yes but… what exactly does project-based education mean?

11. We seek recognition of projects and project implementation capabilities as essential for all management and leadership positions; we aspire for it to become part of the curriculums of every school and undergraduate program; we aim for it to be taught in every business school and MBA program.

This is about actively seeking recognition of the essential nature of project related capabilities. If we deem these to be essential to all forms of management and leadership, then indeed making project theory (and/or project management I suppose?) part of curricula seems like one way to go about it.

The value of certification is in the eye of the beholder, I imagine.

There is some discussion going on on the professional nature of project implementation. See next guideline.

In short: I take away from this guideline that, if you support this manifesto, you would actively seek and/or promote recognition of projects and project implementation. And that is something we can do IF we also focus from time to time on huge project successes instead of having a narrow beam focused on project failures.

12. We declare that projects and project implementation should be recognized as a profession.

Yes, yes we do. And I never pondered the requirements for getting recognized as a profession. Why is project management or implementation not recognized as a profession? There are job adverts out there for project collaborators and project managers, are there not?

I noticed there are proponents and opponents of this principle, but also that there is a lot of misunderstanding. Some people require proof to show that project implementation is a profession. But wouldn’t that require project implementation to already be … a profession? I mean, how would you prove this? Are there any laws or rules, per country or other level, that dictate what, how or when some activity is recognized as a profession?

In short: needs research, but yes, recognition as a profession is certainly needed. And that is something different than certification.

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