Tuesday, 26 January 2010 23:00

Paradigm shifts. The True Nature of Successful Project Teams; Everyone is a Sponsor

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Not too long ago, there was an article published in Project Times about the role of a project sponsor and his/her relationship with the other project team members, "Project Sponsor as Core Team Member". I differ very much with the opinion presented in this article, as it perpetuates a vision of team work that, for me, has nothing to do with the true nature of the relationships that exist between the many stakeholders who journey together in a project, nowadays. It perpetuates a vision of "project order" that does not seem to be in line with the new 'chaordic' paradigm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaordic) that has emerged at the beginning of the 1990s and that is now accepted, by a majority of managers and employees I meet, as "how the world really works now".

I do not want to start a crusade; there are too many of those going on, to no avail. I just wish that those who read this will understand that something is going on in the world of project management, something major that won't go away. We have to adapt to these changes as project management professionals, if we want to be part of this team, part of this world in motion.

This new paradigm shift includes the Agile/Lean project management movement and the subsequent publication of the "Agile Manifesto" in 2001 (http://agilemanifesto.org/). This movement, that started almost simultaneously on traditional construction projects (LEAN) and on software development projects (AGILE), has continued to spread on more and more different types of projects, namely to the domains of innovation and new product development. Its modus operandi has finally been spelled out clearly by the prestigious founding members of the Agile Project Leadership Network (http://apln.org/) when they put on the internet in 2005 the "Declaration of interdependence" (http://pmdoi.org/).

What does it say? Go to the links and find for yourself, if you have not done so yet, before you really get into deep trouble by not adapting. What is said there is now taught in project management courses around the world. I myself teach it in four Master degree programs in Europe, as well as in all the workshops I give. Agility is now recognized as an essential quality of good project management; all major project management associations are now acknowledging this and shifting towards this paradigm, in which all stakeholders are the project team, and where everyone is both the sponsor of their own interests and a collaborator to the overall success of the project journey they have embarked on.

The vision that was presented in the article "Project Sponsor as Core Team Member" is not in line with this Agile project management paradigm that is now revolutionizing, not only the way businesses run projects, but also the way humans behave and interact both inside and outside their organisational boundaries. It is not in line with the now global awareness of our world as a huge system of highly interdependent elements that cannot succeed through unnatural structural hierarchies based on the illusion of "order and control", but only through "collaboration and shared ownership and accountability".

The Agile paradigm shift and the behaviours it entails are overwhelmingly well received now in most of the organisations I work with, because they know they have to make this shift for survival. Greg Howell, the co-founder and managing director of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI - http://www.leanconstruction.org/) told me one day in an email that Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions) was a book that shaped his thinking, and that I would enjoy reading it. I did. This is a book about paradigm shifts and the history of physics; it is about what happens to the "old brigade" (that comprises people of all ages) when it does not see the shift coming. Those who have not yet understood the depth of the organisational, structural and behavioural changes this paradigm commands or just do not want to "opt in" would surely benefit from reading Thomas Kuhn's

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Claude Emond

Claude Emond is one of the founders and president of Qualiscope Enterprises, a project management consulting, coaching and training firm based in Montreal, Canada. He has degrees in chemical engineering from Canada's Royal Military College (BEng) and Montreal McGill University (MEng), a MBA from Ottawa University, workshop leadership training from Le Centre Quebecois de la PNL, and is a certified PMP. He has over 25 years experience managing major public and private projects. He teaches project risk management in the Schulich School of Business Master certificate in project management and the PMP certification revision class for PMI, Montreal He is one of the authors of the current PMI Standards for Portfolio Management. Claude can be reached at claude.emond@qualiscope.ca"

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