Forces Driving Change

Although new technologies such as the Web, Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), and Java play a part in the need for new project management models, the major forces are not technological. They are:

  • Driving Force 1 ”A power shift;

  • Driving Force 2 ”The free agent army; and

  • Driving Force 3 ”The global e-economy.

Driving Force 1 ”A Power Shift

Our group first documented this phenomenon more than 10 years ago (see our Web site). The use and abuse of expert power by computer people [2] have resulted in a major shift in the control of Information Technology (IT) and other expert project groups back into the business areas.

[2] Although we focus on computer and IT people here, the same patterns exist for other expert areas such as architecture, engineering, medicine, and so on.

There are four broad stages in the evolution of expert and business professional relations that are discernible in most organizations. Each stage has its own written and unwritten codes of practice and behavior ”in essence, its own culture. The prevailing culture is evidenced in every interaction between business and computing professionals. It totally dominates the processes of project management, systems analysis, and system and product support.

The key cultural difference between the stages is the direction and nature of the control and power relations, as shown in Figure 1.1. Simply, the power relationship revolves around who controls the IT and system development activities.

Figure 1.1. Four stages of power relationships


There are four stages of professional behavior that are currently evidenced in organizations:

  • Stage 1 ”Dark Age

  • Stage 2 ”Tokenism

  • Stage 3 ”Payback

  • Stage 4 ”Partnership

Each stage seems to be a prerequisite for the next . However, this is not inevitable, as there are a few organizations that have bypassed Stage 2 and some that have the potential to bypass Stage 3.

We'll use computing people as our example, however. As shown by Alan Patching (1994), a similar model has emerged for construction and engineering project management as well. Indeed, the shift in power from experts to clients in project management is mirrored more broadly in the shift to consumer power being experienced in many organizations.

We also accept that there is a possible fifth stage in which the distinction between expert and client ceases to exist.

Stage 1 ”Dark Age

For most organizations, the Dark Age stage was associated with the first introduction of computing into the organization. In general, this stage lasted through the 1960s into the late 1970s. The prevailing ethic was that of expert diagnosis and expert power. There was little standardization of the system development and project management process, and each senior programmer or project manager had his or her way of doing things.

A typical scenario in this stage was that a perceived business problem was quickly outlined by the client with the computer person asking specific questions about the nature of the problem. The business person would be told how long the system development process would take and then, unless he or she was required to provide more information, the business client would not be disturbed until system testing and implementation.

The key to this was that the business user was completely dependent on the computer professional. Should the project take longer than originally estimated, there was little that the business client could do, with the exception of complaining (which, in many cases, further reduced the likelihood of satisfaction, because the computer professional had been upset).

In summary, this stage was marked by a directive, often aggressive attitude toward the clients (i.e., Trust us. We know what's best for you in computing solutions), little or no client involvement in the system development process, and the issues of quality and project management left to the computing group to define and manage.

In essence, computing people were left alone to practice their dark art. The key word here is dominance .

This stage inevitably led to a serious organizational conflict and a maintenance nightmare. With the arrival of database technology coupled with the structured revolution (data flow diagrams, data modeling, structured design, and programming) in the mid-1970s, organizations began to move to the second stage.

Stage 2 ”Tokenism

The second stage, which emerged in the mid- to late 1970s, is marked by the redevelopment of many of the systems developed in the first stage to take advantage of the benefits offered by database technology and the emerging communications and network technology. In addition, this stage marked the first attempt to automate new types of information systems such as management information and decision support.

However, the key element of the second stage was the development of more disciplined approaches to system development, project management, and quality assurance. Implicit in these techniques was the need for more active client involvement in the specification and testing of computer systems. However, it is revealing that none of the classic texts in these techniques really addressed the social and political issues associated with client involvement in system development, product quality, or project management impact.

In addition, as we discuss later, the disciplined approaches to project management introduced by people such as Phillip Metzger (1979) were based on engineering models that also excluded any meaningful client participation in estimation, scheduling selection of strategy, and so on.

As a result, although the intrinsic quality of the system development and management process was considerably higher in Stage 2, client involvement was restricted to initial systems analysis, system testing, and documentation. In many organizations, a token business analyst or client representative was recruited to the computer project team or, in some cases, specific business analysis or special project groups were formed using business people that were designed to represent the business areas. Typically, members of these groups were corrupted by computing people and these groups eventually entered a "Twilight Zone" existence, representing neither the interests of business groups nor of computing groups.

The Tokenism stage was typified by computing groups still firmly in control of project management issues such as cost, effort, quality, and priorities. There was some participation by business clients in the development process, but this involvement was on the terms of computing people. It is not surprising that in this stage, business people get to undertake testing and documentation, the two stages of the development process least liked by IT professionals. Many organizations are still in Stage 2 but moving rapidly to Stage 3. Others have moved on to Stage 3. The key word here is bureaucracy.

Stage 3 ”Payback or Get Even

This stage reflects both the years of frustration of business people with their lack of control of the computing effort and a series of major technological and environmental factors influencing organizations throughout the 1980s. Simply, in Stage 3, the pendulum swings dramatically from computing control to business control.

The major factors behind Stage 3 are business factors that have been well documented in landmark books by people such as Tom Peters (1988), Peter Drucker (1989), Charles Handy (1989), and many others. Competitive, financial, and social pressures forced all organizations (private and public) to evaluate their methods of working, managing, and planning. As a result, senior management began, for the first time, to critically examine its organization's investment in computing. In particular, senior management became focused on issues such as how computing technology and systems were aligned to business fundamentals such as strategic planning, return on investment, client service, and added value. [3] As a result of Stages 1 and 2, most internal computing professionals were left wanting.

[3] In addition, the increased level of computing and IT studies in schools has created a class of business people who are more knowledgeable about IT issues.

Features of Stage 3 are concepts such as "a business within a business," computing as an internal service bureau or cost center, best practice, benchmarking and, in extreme cases, outsourcing computing as an independent business area. In practical terms, this means that clients are charged fully for their use of computing people and equipment. It means that return on investment and the associated techniques of risk assessment and risk management are taken more seriously and that projects that cannot be objectively measured and justified from a business (not computing technology) perspective are not supported. In extreme cases, it means that internal computing groups are forced to submit project estimates or quotations in competition with quotations from outside organizations (in many cases, they are threatened with outsourcing). Stage 3 also involves penalties for nondelivery and for poor estimation. In other words, business clients are demanding from internal computing people the same level of service that they would expect from commercial consulting and system integration organizations.

Stage 3 might give the business professionals a legitimate power and perhaps a less legitimate feeling of "getting even" with computing professionals, but it does little to address the fundamental issues of lack of meaningful participation and organizational impact that typified Stages 1 and 2 and led to Stage 3 with its shift of power to the business groups.

Outsourcing as Payback

Among the unspoken factors underlying the rapid growth (>30% per annum) in outsourcing are the factors covered in this chapter. Despite evidence that outsourcing results in higher costs, many business groups have indicated that they will continue to outsource their IT and other expert effort. The answer lies mainly in the higher degree of professional service and attitude exhibited by better outsourcing groups.

In many ways, Stage 3 has made matters worse as it has led to an antagonistic attitude between IT and business professionals. Although they are now "in control," business people can do little to really ensure that they obtain quality systems because they have simply removed themselves further from the development process by adopting a contract-at-arms'-length attitude. In essence, they have become victims of their own control and this continues the lack of understanding between the two groups. The key word for this stage is antagonism.

Stage 4 ”Partnership

Stage 4 is marked by a shared recognition from both computing and business people of the need for a collaborative partnership based on professional behaviors. This partnership includes all the return on investment, cost recovery, and other project management and quality concerns of Stage 3, in addition to open negotiation of these issues and full client participation in planning, managing, and developing the computer system.

We're All Mixed Up

In larger organizations, all stages can be evident at the same time. Because the behaviors covered in this chapter are cultural, they exist in the "heads" of the various project managers. It is possible for one project manager to be exhibiting Dark Age behavior and, in the very next room, another project manager to be in Partnership with his or her clients. Unfortunately, as in many human interactions, the worst behavior tends to be taken as representative of the whole group.

Rather than the "closed bidding" of project costs, effort, and delivery schedules typical of Stage 3 (and to some extent Stages 1 and 2), projects in Stage 4 are planned in joint planning sessions that include the formation of essential "contracts" for project delivery and quality requirements. These contracts are not the one-way contracts associated with Stage 3 but rather, joint contracts that also require commitment from business clients.

Another key feature of Stage 4 is complex, interdisciplinary project teams that shift throughout all system development and support phases (see "Driving Force 3 ”The Global E-Economy").

Inherent in Stage 4 is the expansion of both business and computing professionals' awareness of each other's concerns and the project dynamic. Computer professionals become more aware of the strategic business issues associated with the use of information systems and are fully trained in cost “benefit and risk management processes. Business professionals are educated in project and quality management processes as well as in systems analysis, cost “benefit analysis, and associated system development techniques.

This is not to suggest that business professionals will become computer professionals and vice versa, but rather that education and communication are necessary to ensure a deeper appreciation of each group's concerns and to facilitate more meaningful participation. Each group must act professionally and respect the other group's professionalism . The key word for this stage is cooperation.

This force, more than any other, is driving the new project management paradigm.

Driving Force 2 ”The Free Agent Army

In the 1960s and 1970s, belief in concepts such as jobs for life and corporate loyalty was accepted as the norm. In addition, many organizations provided a "corporate family" for their employees and, as documented by many management experts, the rules were simple: Look after your organization and it will look after you.

As a result, there was a generally stable organization structure and culture, which meant that long- term investment was made in building the skills and knowledge of people and teams. In addition, the relative stability and security of employment meant that personnel turnover was low and when it did occur, it was well planned.

During the 1990s, an organizational environment emerged that was more complex, more turbulent, and more chaotic . Again, as well documented by experts such as Peter Drucker (1989), Charles Handy (1989), and many others, one of the side effects of the new organization environment is that corporate loyalty and careers for life are no longer accepted dogma.

An excellent example of the new corporate reality can be seen in one of our favorite magazines, Fast Company . In the August/September 1997 and December/January 1998 issues, Fast Company headlined two "state of the art" pieces. The first, from Tom Peters, was called "A Brand Called You." In a wonderful revision of the famous statement, "There is no I in team," Peters argued that "There is a You in team" and that the focus of people must be on their own career interests rather than that of others or of the organization. In the December/January issue, Daniel Pink described the concept of free agents or, in more conventional terms, corporate mercenaries. [4] In Fast Company' s terms, free agents are people who understand:

[4] The term that Fast Company offers as an alternative for free agents is condottiere, which is the Italian term for soldiers who traveled Europe fighting for any sovereign who would pay them.

The old social contract didn't have a clause for introspection. It was much simpler than that. You gave loyalty (to the company). You got security. But now that the old contract has been repealed, people are examining both its basic terms and its implicit conditions.

Nina Munk (1998), in an article entitled "The New Organization Man" in Fortune , parallels the conclusions reached in the Fast Company articles, quoting from a senior in a U.S. university:

My dad worked for Sears for 19 years as a security guard, and he was laid off. I have to position myself so that I can constantly look out for myself . I have to be self-serving.

These views are typical of those of the members of the virtual teams [5] with which we are familiar.

[5] A virtual team is a shifting group of part-time and "borrowed" people who have reporting lines to other people as well as the project manager. We discuss this in greater detail later.

These concepts are not new and, in fact, were first proposed in 1989 by Charles Handy in his seminal The Age of Unreason . In that book, Handy argued for people to adopt the concept of work not as an upward and hierarchical career in one organization, but rather as a horizontal portfolio of different jobs for different organizations.

The new team environment also includes the additional factors of continuous restructuring, outsourcing, and dynamic planning driven by increasing competition and technological innovation.

The other major driving force for new team structures is the increasing subspecialization of business and information skills. Traditional project teams were based on a group of people who possessed the requisite skills to undertake the project work. Only a decade ago, the typical IT team would need access to a project manager, a systems analyst, a data modeler, a couple of COBOL programmers, a documentation expert, and perhaps a tester. Now, the range and complexity of technical issues, development platform concerns, higher business group participation, graphical user interface (GUI) and prototyping requirements, business process redesign considerations, change management, complex network and database design, implementation factors, and so on, have vastly increased the range and sophistication of skills required for successful product and system development. As a result, few teams can permanently accommodate all required skills, so the flexibility of the virtual team has given it an edge.

The project management models required to effectively manage a virtual team working under extreme pressure are fundamentally different from those required for stable, traditional teams.

Driving Force 3 ”The Global E-Economy

A quick visit to the management section of Barnes & Noble or Borders shows the overwhelming pressure being bought to bear on contemporary business executives. Hundreds of books with titles including Blown To Bits , Faster , Innovate or Die , Business at the Speed of E , and The Networked World exhort executives to rapidly adopt e-technologies and strategies. [6] In one week, in both the leading daily business papers of Australia and the United Kingdom, over 50% of the advertisements were for e-commerce or e-technology companies. For most senior executives, the message is clear: innovate or liquidate.

[6] In September 2001, while browsing in a bookshop at Changi Airport in Singapore, I counted more than 100 books on e-business management practice. In fact, there were more e-business management books than traditional management books.

Discounting the massive vendor hype and the dot-com failures of 2000, there is a fundamental shift occurring in the global business economy. In his wonderful book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree , Thomas Friedman (1999) detailed the broader impacts of globalization. He argued that the Cold War created an international system that is now being replaced by another system ”the globalization system:

To begin with, the globalization system, unlike the Cold War system, is not static, but a dynamic on-going process: Globalization involves the inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before ”in a way enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world, farther, faster, deeper and cheaper. (p. 00)

Globalization and the e-economy have resulted in a business and regulatory environment of:

  • Increased growth;

  • Increased levels of takeovers, mergers, and alliances;

  • Higher levels of competition;

  • More aware consumers;

  • More choice for consumers;

  • More complex product requirements; and

  • Rapid product development cycles.

In particular, increasing consumer awareness, availability of Internet-driven alternatives, shifting of labor to low-cost countries , the push for reduction of trading barriers and free trade, and many other factors are forcing organizations to reexamine their product, project, and service-delivery processes.

In our group's client base, which is mainly major financial organizations, the widely held belief in business groups is that traditional IT and other project development approaches are too bureaucratic and slow. This belief, coupled with the other driving forces, has enabled us to design and implement more radical project development and management approaches ”eXtreme project management.


eXtreme project management is not just a new set of tools; it is a new project culture.

Radical Project Management
Radical Project Management
ISBN: 0130094862
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 136
Authors: Rob Thomsett © 2008-2017.
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