The End of Management

Why do we always talk about “managing” and “managers”, instead of supporters and shapers?!

Why do we believe a project has a beginning and an end?!

Who says goals are static?!

These, along with the following theses, are among the questions I would wish to ask and discuss during one of the future PM-Camps. After all, said PM Camps are coming up in the months of May and June in Stuttgart, Vienna and Bad Homburg.

Time and again, we talk and think in terms of projects. Both in enterprises and in life. And we witness how projects fail. One after the other. More and more of them. There is hardly any project these days that actually renders the desired result in “time & budget”. And even if, by some accident, you seem to have come up with the desired result, it turns out said result does not solve the original problem.

What is even worse:

Many enterprises invest their entire dynamics in a number of projects. The criteria for choosing their projects are rather strange. More often than not, the protagonists who yell the loudest will win. Frequently, they even compete against each other, probably foul-mouthing each other, along with each other’s project.

Most of these projects will later fail. It is often predictable and the damage is quite huge. And what is worse – everybody knows this is not how matters can ever work out well. But that is ignored. To be sure, the pressure on the parties concerned is increased, but eventually, the shattered glassware will be brushed under the carpet. Because, after all, you are harming yourself if you admit failure with your own project.

And it often seems like a miracle if these enterprises actually continue to thrive, regardless of their many failed projects.

So what do we learn from this? Projects do not play a role any more. They are irrelevant when it comes to the evolutionary/innovative development of enterprises. Instead, enterprises are moved by their own dynamics. It might be good or bad, but it can hardly be influenced by projects any longer.

Enterprises will go their own way, sometimes up, sometimes down. But, mostly, they are not influenced or impressed by projects someone has announced or by an armada of manager(ial type)s. To be sure, they pretend to actually sit at the steering wheel, but when all is said and done, their influence on the development of the enterprise is negligible.

The future of institutions and enterprises will not be shaped by projects. The survival or downfall of enterprises will be caused by other, often not rationally explainable powers – and those powers might sometimes actually appear magical.

Because “thinking mechanistically” will no longer work. Deducing something from facts, then planning and determinedly executing something can be done less and less often. That is how we used to learn it in management in former times: gather information, then evaluate and decide. It seems, or maybe it is, a concept of the past.

It probably never worked anyway. It was all an illusion of ours. A world, seemingly without growth limits, made this illusion possible.

We live in the era of co-operation, co-working, co-creation, col-laboration and com-munication. We talk and live Teams and Communities. We mention humans and social systems. And, as it happens, they will not function with classical project concepts. However, this is not threatening. Instead, it is a chance! How else are we supposed to find our way back from the over-complicated distractedness that confuses us all over the place and get back to the simple things in life?

The old misery starts as early as the terminology. Why do we always talk about the “project manager”? Why do we talk quality manager, knowledge manager and future manager? Why do we always start with phrases such as “directing a project” and the like?

It was a huge mistake to assume that every project has a beginning and an end. In fact, that was the very definition of a project. They also stated that a project always has a well-defined goal! And that detailed planning, including exact milestones, is possible. Except: change is not a soccer game that lasts 90 minutes and then the referee will announce the end with his whistle. And inflexible goals will collapse with change.

Formerly, the dynamics and unpredictability of the future was denied or at least underestimated and suppressed. It was embedded in a mechanistical concept of the world. Humans were considered resources that had to work perfectly in a Tayloristically organized division of work. In a predictable future, unwanted factors would allegedly be avoided or at least realistically calculated!

Those times are over. It no longer works that way. If you have huge projects, it is quite apparent. But most of the medium-range and small projects, too, run behind planning. They never get finished and eventually there comes a day when they are silently buried.

In the tradition of Taylorism, there is a strange specializing. Exceptional persons will be made project leaders. More and more, their main job gets to camouflage or explain why the project failed.

Mind you, they have no chance at all. Because this approach of an “outward skeleton” for living development is the wrong approach. Everyone on the team must be a project leader? Just like everyone on the team must deliver and understand quality.

The sum total must be that a task is taken responsibility for, because an entire team works for a common goal. But said goal is not something static that is reached. Instead, it develops dynamically and moves and our future actions will be based on it. Basically, it is the normal state of affairs that a goal is a “moving target”. And we can never reach it, because it permanently changes itself.

Let us look left and right. Let your competence and your common sense prevail.

Cooperation cannot be controlled. It must be lived. And all those many project managers should contribute with their special knowledge and participate in life while disposing of this task. Then we would no longer have PM’s (project managers). Instead, we would have PS’s (project supporters). And under such PS responsibility, all other “co-workers” would gladly joint forces.

And one would hope that with this kind of change in terminology, the understanding of some project managers, too, might change.

(Translated by EG)

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