IPMA International Project Management Association
11 January 2018 / 8:24

From systematic-beings to Organic-beings: A futuristic Vision of Project Management

It is an often-repeated truism that we live in a fast-changing world. The field of Project Management is no exception. It has become pervasive; its use has transcended usual project boundaries to become the tool for day-to-day management activities as well.

The onset of technological advancements in areas such as Big Data, Social Media, and Artificial Intelligence adds further pressure for the profession to come out of its fixed mould, and to become more adaptable to this changing world.  In particular, these changes require project management systems to be more flexible and scalable.

Up to now, projects have tended to be thought of as systematic-beings – things that are managed using standard processes, best practices, and established tools and techniques geared to the various phases of project work. Being systematic – as in any field of specialization – is useful in creating a common language and in serving as a platform for common knowledge dissemination to people with diverse backgrounds, cultures and needs.

But at the same time it may also stifle versatility, and prevent fusion of knowledge which is otherwise available through cultural, industrial and geographical variations and contexts; and thus it may hold back advance in the project management body of knowledge. This is evident from the fact that in past 50 years or so, the overall developments in project management knowledge have been slow, with little integration of new techniques, good practices and improved processes.

In line with the much-heralded buzzwords of Agility and Lean, the next possible evolution for project management could be seen as a transition from systematic-beings to organic-beings.

We define organic-beings as networked systems that are self-forming, self-evolving and self-adjusting to the changing needs of project objectives, with organic capabilities to include or exclude resources, processes, and technological infrastructure. Project systems of this new type will capitalize on available social and infrastructure networks to deliver value to the stakeholders and owners of projects in new ways.

We discuss the key components (though following is neither a complete nor an exhaustive list) of organic project systems as follows:

A. Organic procurement of project staff resources:

The core to the operationalization of organic PM systems is procurement of project staff in an organic way. It would require leveraging upon the skills inventories available at a wider scale outside the organizational boundaries in a flexible and adjustable manner.

Social media and internet technologies have enabled a shift in staff procurement models. Organizations can move away from their current approach of having a pool of internal project team members, into tapping into networks of project staff fleets available outside usual organizational boundaries.

To facilitate organic systems, staff procurement will adopt a business model of commercially available booking systems with following steps:

  1. Organizations will register themselves on the Project Management – Staff Fleet Management system (PM-SFMS) — a handheld portable device app having its sister PC and MAC based versions. There organizations will be required to maintain a list of required skills sets on an ongoing basis.
  2. The people with interest in seeking employment will also register their skills in PM-SFMS. The registered applicants need to maintain their skills set information and their credentials on an ongoing basis.

These credentials will be subjected to a verification process (just like the verification process by which people and their vehicles are used in today’s commercial booking systems). Once verified, the system will complete the registration and add the applicant to the PM-SFMS.

  1. PM-SFMS will also maintain salary / wage ranges for different levels of skill sets, experience and other parameters to facilitate the staff engagement process.
  2. During project delivery, when someone raises a request for procurement of staff using the PM-SFMS app, the registered potential employees within the designated range (e.g. 3-5 sq. km) of the employer location will respond to the call using the PM-SFMS app (similar to commercial booking systems used for various purposes such as taxi booking).
  3. The system will then decide which potential employee(s) (1 to 3) are most suited to the requested call from those who responded to the call.
  4. The potential employee and an authorized person from the project can then have a discussion using video calling system of the PM-SFMS app, and the potential employee would provide an availability chart. The meeting will be recorded using the PM-SFMS app for follow-up purposes.
  5. The discussion can lead to three options: (a) Accept, (b) Reject, and (c) Add to waiting list. The decision will be recorded in PM-SFMS.
  6. In cases where the employee is accepted, s/he needs to provide his written acceptance of the terms and condition of the job.
  7. The PM-SFMS will also provide three wage options: (a) Fixed wage, (b) Negotiable wage, and (c) Premium wage options for the parties involved in the process to make negotiation and engagement process simple.
  8. The system will also record the start, end, duration and time schedule of the accepted job.
  9. A person can accept to take more than one job offered through the PM-SFMS, however, the system will only allow such an engagement if there are no schedule or terms-and-conditions conflicts involved in taking two or more jobs.
  10. If an employee who is engaged for the job is found to be unable to complete the job or found not to possess the skills recorded in the PM-SFMS, s/he will be barred from further use of the PM-SFMS.
  11. An employer who does not follow the terms and conditions carefully will also be barred from using PM-SFMS.
  12. The completion of job will be recorded in the PM-SFMS for further continuity of registration in the system.
  13. The system would require that employees and employers to be on the register for at least six months to avoid disruptive effects.

B. Organic procurement of equipment and services:

The organic system approach will also allow projects to avoid dependence on fixed inventories of equipment. Instead, use of equipment rental booking systems would be incorporated. Such an approach will reduce maintenance and handling costs and enhance operational flexibility. The equipment and services can be procured by setting up a system similar to PM-SFMS.

C. Organic approach towards use of facilities:

The successful business model of Airbnb provides opportunities to use the approach to book facilities for project management in an organic way.  Taking the organic approach will not only help the projects initiated based on Co-create and Offer basis, but traditional projects can also benefit from the flexibility of operations and completion of tasks.

Concluding thoughts:

Given the success of commercial booking systems such as taxis and facilities rentals, a project management system based on these ideas would be able to enhance project management efficiencies and help improve work. The transition of project management philosophy from a systematic to organic represents an advance in the maturity of project management technology. The technology for such applications as taxi and rental systems is now well tested and established, and the opportunity is here to leap frog it for further uses. Project management, with its pervasiveness beyond its traditional boundaries, is ideally placed to make the good use of it.

Acknowledgement: 

Special thanks to post-write-up contributions by Roger Tagg.

5 Comments

  • Safwan F. Wahhas says:

    Interesting topic and full with new ideas..
    Thanks prof. Jiwat

  • jiwat jiwat says:

    Thanks Safwan

    I am glad it was helpful in providing new ideas.

  • Please, be aware that organisms are systems. The transition is from lineal thinking to systemic thinking.

  • Yossi Barezer says:

    I think the idea is great. It is like UBER for projects and it is similar to a turnkey project for a group or individual.
    I heard that there are companies that are trying to provide such services in different ways but not successfully. I think as long as it is individual working on a standalone task it will be ok. But, once you start to work in a team, it is very difficult to manage that.
    If someone will have a good solution/platform, it will start the shift.

  • jiwat jiwat says:

    Thats correct Yossi. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    I think technologies used for Taxi booking and other rental booking have become mature and stable enough and time is ripe that their benefits can be extrapolated for Project Management.

    It is not necessary to procure all HR through PM-SFMS. For smaller team 2-10 people can be more permanent, and the rest can be procured on-demand just-in-time basis using PM-SFMS. For larger teams, upto 50% can be more permanent and the rest from PM-SFMS. In Co-create and Offer driven projects, 80-90% staff can be procured through PM-SFMS.

    Since Project Management is used in every sphere of life, so it could help profession to evolve by taking advantage of skills set available at a wider scale. Adding New brains will induce new ideas and new efficiencies, ultimately benefiting the final project outcome.

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Jiwat

Author of this post

Jiwat is a Professor in Project Management. He has considerable experience of working internationally in diverse cultures and business environments such as Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Australia, among others. Over his career, he has provided leadership in establishing, designing, and delivering Executive education / Master’s, Training, and Research programs.

Jiwat is currently serving on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Project Management.

Jiwat actively contributes to project management community by speaking at various events and writing on emerging issues. His work has been published in top scientific journals and Four of his published papers have remained in Top25 most downloaded papers. Additionally, two of his papers have been ranked as the Most Cited article published since 2012, one in the International Journal of Production Economics and the other in Journal of Engineering and Technology Management. More recently, he has published a number of articles on some of the issues confronting project management in various industry based outlets.

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