Let's call time on old arguments (and mistakes)

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There are two debates going around the project management discussion sites at the moment that I find frustrating.

The first is the hackneyed old survey that simply asks “what are the reasons for project failure?” 

The second is the debate about whether project management is a profession or not.

There may seem to be little connection between these two but I think they are closely related.

People have been doing surveys on why projects fail for at least 40 years. The results never change.

In fact if you go back to the ‘post-project reviews’ of the Parthenon in Rome, I would suggest they haven’t changed in the best part of 2,000 years.

These surveys inevitably come up with lists of symptoms rather than root causes. While I don’t have space to explain in detail, I believe the root causes often relate to broader social aspects of the project context. We’ve known why projects fail for years. The big question is: “Why do so many people carry on doing the same old thing and expecting a different result?”

And that brings me to professionalism. The ‘project management is not a profession’ lobby mainly use the argument to oppose the award of a Royal Charter. They believe it means that project managers will have to be licenced by the APM and regularly sued if the project fails. No matter how often you tell them that isn’t true they refuse to believe it.

You don’t have to be a ‘licenced Professional’ to act professionally. The Royal Charter is about advancing the practice of project management, and that applies to all those involved in projects, not just the managers.

The Charter would be one of many things that will help achieve the social change we need to stop repeating old mistakes.'

Adrian Dooley is the creator of www.praxisframework.org  – a free, community driven framework for P3 management.

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of Project magazine.


Posted by Adrian Dooley on 20th Jun 2014

About the Author
Originally a construction project manager, I became involved in the development of project planning software for PC's in the early 1980's. In 1984 I set up a training and consultancy company, The Projects Group, and ran that until its sale in 2008. I was a founder member of Project Manager Today Magazine and Project Management Exhibitions Ltd. From 1996 to 2000, I served on the APM Council. During that period I was the Head of Professional Development and was appointed to the Board of APM Group Ltd. I am now semi-retired but remain on the Board of APM Group. I was heavily involved in the development of the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge and have drawn on that experience to create an integrated framework for P3 management at www.praxisframework.org.

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