IPMA International Project Management Association
29 March 2019 / 9:00

Entering the era of “projacting”

Yes, it´s a new word and may sound “strange” at the very first moment. However, I want to offer an alternative to “project management”, as “management” is outdated, old-fashioned and pretty distant to the object of the project. But let´s start the discussion…

The term “project” isn´t new. The Oxford Online Dictionary offers several definitions, on the one hand for the noun “individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim” and on the other hand for the verb “throw or cause to move forward or outward”. It´s something that is aimed at achieving something in the future, someone (together with others) does something to achieve a future state or aim, based on aspirations, intentions and abilities. Between the late sixteenth and the early twentieth century stories about “projectors” (people doing projects) were mainly about people acting in difficult circumstances of society, achieving the nearly impossible based on their imperturbability (see the story of Quevedo, Ludvig Holberg, Carl Spitzweg or Kurd Lasswitz). During the first stages of industrial revolution and the quest for continuous optimization, concept such as “Scientific Management” got popular and paved the way for “project management”.

During the Cold War an arms race took place between the USA and the USSR. Armed forces in the USA tried to accelerate the development of missiles with new, quantitative approaches. Operations Research was popular at the time, so the mathematical approaches of planning were used for projects. With the help of network planning techniques, such as Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), Gantt diagrams and the Critical Path Method (CPM), project processes were analysed and planned. The paradigm of planning dominated. Planning was carried out by central departments, the implementation of the plans then had to be purposeful and strictly according to specifications. People were just a means to execute the plan, they had to follow plans. To this day, the paradigm of detailed planning before the start of implementation, the separation of planning and execution as well as compliance with specified processes and procedures is a dominant scheme. Many standards are still based on this paradigm. However, project management has developed further in the meantime. New perspectives for managing projects got recognised and changed the understanding and the practices of project-related work. Especially the trend of agile approaches for realizing projects are challenging traditional ways of project management, some even argue that it is the ”end of project management”. This is why we need to go back to the roots and find a new view on projects and the way we deal with them.

Projects are popular. We increasingly experience the projectification of our society. In industry, the dominant way of approaching projects is planning what should be done before implementing these plans. This has been adopted also in other sectors of our society, for example in public administration, in non-governmental organisations and the service sector. Especially projects in the creative area are approached differently, e.g. projects in the areas of software development, service engineering, arts and crafts as well as social development. The previously customary separation between planning and execution is thereby abolished. Planning is carried out by the executor himself, on the basis of the context and the project requirements, and immediately put into practice. Planning therefore has a shorter horizon and the experience gained from implementation can be incorporated directly into the next (planning) steps. This means that the individual with his or her skills is becoming increasingly important for project work. Everyone has to analyse the project environment, consider ways towards the goal and choose from a variety of tools the right one for implementation. Cognitive skills play an important role in dealing with the increasing complexity of the project environment. People are again increasingly seen as an important success factor for the implementation of projects. With their skills and experience, they are better able to deal with complex projects.

Projacting is a combination of “Project” and “Acting”. People act through projects, they realize their aspirations, objectives and expectations through projects. They self-organize and do not need anybody else to tell them what to do or how to act in the context of the project. Leadership is performed in a rather “servant” or “supportive” style, “command & control” leadership is perceived to be counter-productive, especially during the creative stages of a project. Through “projacting” people build on all competences available, gain more during the pursuit of the project and thus continuously learn throughout a project lifecycle.

The Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov (1829-1903) wrote that through the “projective capacity” of people, the theoretical and the practical reasoning gets united. To become living knowledge, it must become knowledge not only about “what is”, but also about “what should be”, i.e. it has to change from a passive, speculative explanation of the being to an active one (through a project) … Knowledge is merged with actions. By making thoughts happen, humanity becomes in its entirety a single artist, to whom the whole world serves as material to create the earthly paradise … this is what I would call “projacting”! Shaping our own future, the future of our society and the planet through projects. Acting through projects, not managing what  others tell us to do. It also means to take the accountability for sustainable development and not waiting on other to do that… When do you start projacting?




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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.