The Future of Project Management for Skeptics


Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vaccuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons.

unknown, Popular Mechanics, March 1949


Predicting the future is a difficult thing.

Even for those with their fingers on the pulse of an industry, it can be illusive. Could Popular Mechanics in 1949 have envisoned the iPad?

Predictions like the quote above make me skeptical of articles and posts on “The Future of Project Management. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, much less what the future could bring to a profession?

So don’t believe me.
I don’t blame you for reading Future-focused posts. I like reading them too.

My craving for certainty drives me to read posts on the future. I guess I’m hoping I’ll find something to help me survive in what still seems like a very chaotic marketplace.

Believe the trail of failed predictions.

The truth is, we never know what’s going to happen. The mix of people, events and the nature of the economy would make predicting the future of project management an iffy job for fortunetellers. Project Managers who make data-based decisions should probably avoid them.

Believe what you see.

What do we know for sure? Not much. I’m sure you’ve heard the following:
Buzzwords

  • Business acumen
  • Being “Green” is in
  • Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Lean
  • Social Networking

Trends that are changing the way we work

  • Contracting instead of hiring full-time employees
  • Outsourcing
  • Virtual Teams

Believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Don’t leave here thinking that I’m telling you to ignore the trends or God forbid, the buzzwords.  Enjoy them, learn from them, and use them to extend your effectiveness. Just remember that the basics of Project Management haven’t changed.

The best practices outlined in the PMBOK or PRINCE aren’t going to change whether we’re using ENIACS or iPads to track the progress of a schedule.

The tools and techniques we use to manage risk won’t change whether we’re talking with teammembers in Bangalore over a teleconference bridge or sharing ideas over Google Wave.

Instead of looking for certainty in a prediction that will, like most fortunetelling:

  • Be vague
  • Broadly described and
  • Be completely wrong when the “future” turns into the present

Let’s work on the fundamentals.

I’m far more interested in understanding how the fundamentals can be improved on with new tools and ideas than in scrying the future.

Disagree with me?  Think posts on the Future of Project Management add value? Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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2 Comments

  1. I believe that the fundamentals carry on much effectiveness than predictions. Future predictions should be taken as a guide rather than facts. The only thing certain are the actions we make today. 🙂

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