Five Foundations for the Advancement of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
On July 4, 2011 we noted IPMA-USA’s ten-year anniversary. We reflected on our intentions, progress, and achievements in our first ten years—and then, looked ahead at the next ten years. This article focuses on our intentions; but we cannot help but mention our progress. We have helped to advance the practice of project and program management (an ongoing goal). And, we have inspired others to follow our lead: They are now also promoting (their own interpretation of) most of our Five Foundations (see below), and many of our innovations.

We founded IPMA-USA after having been among the key drivers of success of other professional organizations. One example is Project Management Institute (Institute in the rest of this article). Many of us remained members of that great organization, and still do to this day. But we felt it was time for change. And what are project managers, if not change agents?

The Need For Change

Factors in 2000-2001 contributing to the need for change were many. A handful of them became our rallying points. They were also ingredients for our analysis in deciding whether to found a new organization, or to continue working to improve existing ones.

  • PM advancements, innovations and their sharing had significantly slowed;
  • Intellectual Property Ownership issues discouraged involvement of the most-talented practitioners;
  • Training and learning funds appeared to be shifting from project and program performance improvement to test memorization;
  • Association governance moved from member-driven to organization-CEO controlled;
  • Emphasis shifted from all pm sectors to favor Information Technology;
  • Levels of engagement shifted from advanced interaction of long-time practitioners to mass-training of simple subjects to newcomers.

Our Founders

A group of long-time pm practitioners founded IPMA-USA. We came from a variety of backgrounds: Practicing project managers; Managers of project managers; pm consultants and trainers; educators and authors. Some were founders of chapters and officers of other organizations. The average pm industry experience of the founding group in 2001 was around 20 years. Some had been involved for 35 years and more.

Most had earned the Institute’s certification (Lew Ireland wrote its first exam). And we realized that a lot more is needed than an exam to accelerate needed organizational results from our discipline. Many of us worked internationally, so we had a grasp of the status of pm practice in many other nations of the World. Thus, this dedicated group set out to advance the practice of project and program management in America.

Michael McClain, who became our first President, was a manager in a telecom company, and an accomplished project manager. He was the key person in the founding of the Institute’s Colorado Springs chapter. He led the founding of the organization because he saw the need for more than what existing organizations offered members.

Lew Ireland had been a recent President of the Institute. He shepherded it through the change in governance that moved it from member-driven to CEO-managed. This was viewed at the time as crucial to growth. The capacity of Board Members to manage all activities in their areas of responsibility was a weakness. Especially, because the growth the organization was experiencing would continue.

William Duncan was the driving force behind, and the principal author of the PMBOK® Guide, 1st edition. Building upon Max Wideman’s work from 1986-87, Duncan established the Process Groups as a way to better integrate the elements of project management. Duncan is a primary factor in the global advancements of the practice of project management for the last 20 years. When Duncan was not busy advancing the practice of project management, he was a successful international pm consultant.

Bob Youker is a long-time contributor to the practice of project management. His prolific publishing of articles and speaking at conferences for over 20 years, is a starting-point. He has helped developing countries grow their infrastructure through projects funded by World Bank. Bob managed a company that marketed some of the first project management tools (Planalog), and more. He was a strong contributing member to the Institute from its earliest days. Bob was also heavily involved with IPMA, International Project Management Association, originally called INTERNET.

Larry Costello, an associate of Michael’s was an experienced pm practitioner, and designed the first version of the our website. Since we had been founders of multiple chapters, we vowed not to compete with our own successes. Instead of developing chapters, we turned websites and web-based collaboration. Larry was central to that strategy.

Pat Morgan was interested in establishing affiliations, and in an International footprint.

Dan McKee, Secretary-Treasurer, brought order to our finances and recordkeeping. Most of our founders paid for Life Memberships, to help provide operating capital for the fledgling organization.

Roger Summerlin, who coined our name. Later, we realized that it could be used in other ways. For example, “Are You Competent As A PM?

Linda Marchione, who was Michael’s right hand, participated when she was not on assignment. She was on the fast track to Captain in the military.

Stacy Goff provided the conference room for our dozens of lengthy meetings. Those meetings developed the strategy, charter, offerings and support materials for this new organization. Credit goes to Duncan’s and Youker’s willingness to repeatedly fly to the Colorado meetings from the East Coast. Stacy, an international consultant with pm methodologies, tools and workshops, became Vice President and Director of Education.

The IPMA Connection

Some of our founders were strong proponents of joining IPMA from the start; others wanted to establish another strong global competitor. This was one of the few disagreements we had in our first few years, and we resolved them with a series of actions. We reached out to quite a few established groups, and received a reply from some. After some adventures; we applied to be the USA’s IPMA Member Association. Our primary purpose: To embrace an internationally recognized, professionally-assessed, advanced, role-based competence-oriented certification system.

The Five Foundations

In our strategy sessions, we established a vision, then built the foundation for realizing it. Our vision: Appropriate and effective elements of PM performance are widely demonstrated and acknowledged, Not just by PM practitioners, but by all individuals in all organizations. We established five foundation statements; they are, in the tense of 2001:

  • Practitioner-Focused and Practitioner-Driven: We participated in the change in governance in the other organization (deemed essential for its growth). And, we felt that the market needs a professional society that focuses on the needs of practitioners, and remains practitioner-driven.
  • Retain Intellectual Property Ownership: The authors and owners of intellectual property should retain the rights to their work. This will encourage sharing, and building upon the innovations to establish new breakthroughs. Recent capture of intellectual property control have choked off voluntary sharing of information and advances, retarding pm practice.
  • There is More to PM Learning than Certification: The alarming move towards spending pm training funds on short-term exam memorization has slowed improvements in project success.
  • PM Competence Is Our Target: Knowledge-based workshops and exams can be an excellent foundation. They do not, by themselves, achieve needed business results. Experience, on-the-job competence development and coaching, and measured project performance is our target. And, those competences must include interpersonal skills and strategic alignment, not just process steps and formulas.
  • Project Management is a Global Discipline: The most effective project and program managers recognize the cultural differences and strengths in all nations. This, rather than just pushing a USA-centric view on the rest of the World. IPMA-USA will reflect and respect a Global perspective.

In 2000-2001, these were significant differentiators. To some extent, they still are, but here is an observation: Each of these Five Foundations has seen improvement in other organizations since 2001. Of course, we do not take full credit for these innovative approaches. But we have shown the places where we can all do the most good to improve project and program practices. And, don’t worry about us giving away our family secrets. In the last few years, we have added a new set of foundations–while continuing to support our initial five.

Closure

We are pleased when others perceive us and refer to us today as the thought leaders in project management in the USA. We are also gratified that other professional organizations are following our lead. They do so by embracing (because of clear market demand) our five foundations. We have had an interesting, busy, and results-measured first ten years. The next ten, we expect to do even more.

We know that our readership includes the best and brightest. You are also the most outspoken and strong-opinioned, in our practice. What do you think are today’s Change Agent marching orders?

Happy Ten Year Anniversary to IPMA-USA and to all our members and friends!

Your Comments?

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