IPMA International Project Management Association
25 August 2016 / 5:33

Managing and working in Project Society

Many surveys proof the fact, that we experience an increasing number and importance of projects in our society. Research about project activities in Germany show that in 2013 already more than one third of the GDP resulted from project activities, the trends point towards 50% in 2020. A significant increase for the business, the public domain as well as other project-affected sectors such as not-for-profit organisations, arts, crafts, sports etc. Are we on our way into “Project Society”?

The answer is clearly yes, argue the authors of the book “Managing and working in Project Society”. They are thoughtfully synthesizing research findings and industry studies to offer us a comprehensive overview of how project-based organizing is transforming the work context and our society. The book offers a typology of three project archetypes. Firstly, the authors describe project-based organizations (PBOs), in which “the knowledge, capabilities, and resources of the firm are built up through the execution of projects, and most of their internal and external activities are organized in projects”. Examples of PBOs include consulting firms, creative and design agencies as well as architecture and civil engineering firms. Secondly, project-supported organizations (PSOs) include organisations that rely on projects to drive innovation and competitive advantage. Examples include R&D, marketing and design entities of an automotive or telecommunication equipment provider. Thirdly, the book also spans into project networks (PNWs), which include projects across organizational boundaries, harnessing the expertise and resources of a constellation of actors and organizations from across an industry, sector, or cluster.

In essence, the books describes the process of the ongoing “projectification” and the implication on the way we organise and work. “Not only do people relate to projects and to project organizing in their working lives, but they even speak and think of their daily activities in project terms.” We should be aware of the implications, otherwise people may be scared, frustrated or opposed. The implications will be on individual level (e.g. do I want to work in temporary settings of a project?), on organisational level (e.g. how to change from a formerly hierarchical line organisation to a project-driven network across all borders) and also on societal level (e.g. how can we harvest the benefits of project-based work for the good of the society at large?). The authors take us with their book on a journey into a new world, a projectized society. We often discuss the changes in methodology, competences and processes of managing projects. This book changes our perspective and offers insights into the organisational settings and the conditions for temporary project-work. The main message of the book is that there is a need to prepare for the emerging Project Society. “Project managers, managers in large professional organizations, public authorities, leaders of educational institutions, politicians, leaders of trade unions and social movements, and, not least, researchers need to prepare for this shift in the predominant ways of thinking. The development is global!”

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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.