A butterfly with a huge impact
Project management is surely a young academic field. Many of the original shapers of the field are among us and some of them are still quite active. It was truly an honour for me to be invited to participate in a seminar in Vienna late January to celebrate the 65th birthday of Professor Rodney Turner and his contribution to the field of project management. The seminar was organized by professors Martina Huemann, Anne Keegan and Ralf Müller.
Rodney has served as the chief editor of the International Journal of Project Management for more than 25 years and a special issue of IJPM was published in his honour in January 2018 and all those papers were presented during the event in Vienna. Rodney started the event and talked about his career, how he became involved in project management and how he became an academic. It all started early in his carrier when he translated a book on project management to English. One of the authors of the book, Erling Andersen, was in fact present in the room and for me, this was somehow a clear indication of how far we have come in the field in a short time. Rodney Turner has had an enormous impact all the development of the field, he has been a visionary and presented innovative ideas long before they became mainstream. The term “butterfly effect” was used to describe this. Rodney said that he is ike a butterfly that gets interested in a certain theme or subject and sits on it like a flower, for a few months period, and then flies off to find another interesting flower or subject. Many years later these subjects become interesting and relevant in the field. It symbolises the impact of Rodneys work that two of his early PhD students, Professor Ralf Müller and Professor Lynn Crawford have already received lifetime achievement awards for their contribution to project management.
Many of Rodneys colleges, students and co-authors through the years, were gathered in Vienna to honour Rodney. The topics presented on the seminar reflected how the field of project management has expanded during the period he has served in the key role of a chief editor of IJPM, in my mind the most important project management journal in the world. Presentations were given on such topics as the economical weight of projects in western societies and the project oriented organisation and organizational design, leadership in projects, dynamic change and the case against cost benefit analysis.
I have often heard Rodney talk about the struggle to make project management a respected and acknowledged scientific discipline. It is safe to say that he has contributed greatly in that battle, not only through his own research but also by developing the International Journal of Project Management to become a respected and influential academic management journal, by raising the academic standard in the field and by developing IJPM as a very prestigious venue for project management scholars to publish their research and thus leading the way for other academic project management journals.