I hope everyone is having a great holiday. I have a really nice early Christmas present in that the Strategy Driven web site (http://www.strategydriven.com/) has published the article below in the Blog section. The article is dated 21 December so you may need to scroll down to get to it. One other nice touch is that they include a link to my blog here.
I hope you enjoy the article and I plan to have more published sometime in January 2014.
Picasso and Project Management
For those that may not know, Picasso is a famous artist. Like others similar to him in related fields, his art has made an impact on the world. But art, like many other things, is relative to the observer, i.e. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (This saying first appeared in the 3rd century BC in Greece). So while many people may like Picasso, many others may like Jackson Pollack, Thomas Kinkaid, etc. instead and not care about Picasso at all.
Of course art extends way beyond just painting. Films, books, etc. all have their impact on society. And everyone has their personal preference as to which type of art they prefer over other. This just means that if they love films, they may still read a book. It is just their preference to like one better than the other.
This means that artists will cater to the type of art their audiences want. They do this by starting with an idea or concept. This can be from something they saw or imagined, real or not. It can be a new creation or based off of a different from of art, book to movie or vice versa for example. Or even a simple enhancement, like a book’s re-release with extra chapters or a film’s Director’s cut.
Obviously each of these different ways of creating art has very different levels of difficulty. Creating a Director’s cut is much easier than creating the original film from scratch for example. Even within the same type of art, like painting, the differences between artists and their creations are huge. From painting by numbers to the Sistine Chapel there is a massive gap. Both create something, but one obviously has more of an impact than the other.
So what does any of this have to do with Project Management? The common theme from the above is with projects themselves. Just like art, there are projects that have major impacts on society, like the Sistine Chapel (Pyramids, Moon landings, etc.). While other types of projects are more the paint by numbers type.
The art field has many different ways to express art. Projects (and Project Managers) also have many different ways to reach the end goal. As in art, just because someone uses Microsoft Project instead of Primavera does not mean that the end result will not be realized. Both can create the desired result just like one artist can paint in oils, while another likes watercolors. Both paintings could be considered great works of art, just as both projects could be ones that helped improve society.
Also like art, each project is unique, even if the same desired end result is exactly the same. As an example, I worked for three different companies that all wanted the same exact end result for their projects. Each one used vastly different processes, different tools, etc. but they all got the desired end result.
The point of all of this is that project managers are really artists and not scientists. Projects are works of art and not scientific theory. Just like different artists, there are really great people in their field. However generally speaking someone that is a great Project Manager in road construction (painter) is not going to suddenly be a great project manager in a major software project (author). However, it is likely that they could also be a great Project Manager in a dam project for example (water colors versus oils).
If projects were able to be managed like science labs, then why would you ever need a project manager? If Y is needed, you do X and you get Y. The scientific world is looking for Y each and every time you do X. However, in my example above with the three projects, the different companies all needed Y but each of them did A, B, and C to get the same result. This is nowhere even close to the scientific method!
This is why there are so many different project tools, methodologies, etc. The community is trying very hard to convince everyone that project management as a field is a scientific one. We keep looking for some formula or scientific theory that will allow us to get projects done with less effort and better quality. This is an admirable goal to be sure, but not a very realistic one.
The fact that with all the study and effort, this had not happened (and I doubt it ever will), I see no reason not to accept that we are just another form of art and continue to create the great art works our sponsors want. Whether they just want a paint by number picture or the Sistine Chapel, the project managers of the world can certainly create the paintings they want. Are your paint brushes ready?