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Investigators: July 2008 Archives

The Right Fit

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I finally had them right where I wanted them.

 After their big reveal last week at PMI's Research Conference in Warsaw, Poland, Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, sat down for an interview, and I could ask them anything about their Researching the Value of Project Management study. It was a wide-ranging discussion covering everything from selling skeptical executives on project management to the number of motorcycles purchased by researchers during the course of the study. (For the record, the answer to that last one would be three.)

I agree with all the fine points made by my fellow blogger and PMI.org editor Kelley Hunsberger in her earlier post.

But what struck me the most--and what I'm still thinking about nearly a week later--was how often talk around the study still comes down to the deceptively simple issue of fit. It seems so basic, but that doesn't make it any less important. For project management to truly show value, companies have to make it their own--attuned to the culture of their country and their organization.

Like the study itself, the authors were full of information and I'll have much, much more on this interview. And be sure to come back to PMI.org/value in August when parts of the interview will be available for viewing.

The Stars Speak ...

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Last week, PM Network editor and fellow Voices of Project Management contributor Cyndee Miller interviewed Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, principal investigators for PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management study. I had the opportunity to sit in on that interview and there were a few points I wanted to share:

1. Project management does actually have value and the study proves it. Mark and Janice reiterated this point several times during each of their interviews. But Mark was quick to point out, "there is not one thing that is project management." Instead, he said it was all about how organizations "implement project management in their terms."

2. The study wouldn't have been possible without each and every team member--and there were nearly 50 of them. The team worked across almost every time zone--with researchers in China, Russia, North America, Latin America and around the globe. Still, Janice attributed "a strong team from the beginning that was committed to staying with the project through the end," as a key success factor.

3. These researchers have become the humble--and sometimes reluctant--stars of the PMI Research Conference. For example, Mark said during his interview that it took him nearly 40 minutes to get to the restroom after the awards ceremony because there were so many people stopping him to discuss the study.

4. The research doesn't end here. In fact, it seems to just be beginning. "This study generated an amazing database to further research," Janice said.

Some Answers, More Questions

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Well, the session on Researching the Value of Project Management has come and gone. It was captured on video and is now available through www.PMI.org.  Dr. Janice Thomas and Mark Mullaly did a great job in the presentation. They are working virtually around the clock digesting the 600 pages of documentation to deliver comprehensive, yet clear results. The good news is that there is ... well, good news!

The conclusions are very positive about the value that project management contributes to organizations worldwide. Their evidence points to the fact that it's not only tangible results that were achieved, but also intangible, such as better enterprise-wide decision making, more effective work culture, and stronger and clearer communication. In fact, they have identified a clear relationship between project management maturity and a rise in intangible benefits.

There are two other interesting points I came away with. First, none of the 65 organizations measure ROI of the project management. I guess I was surprised by that. Janice and Mark shared they felt that it seemed that it was either a lack of interest in the metric (go figure!), a fear of accountability (paranoia of job security), or perceived complexity of the measurement. I would have thought that more would have measured such a major investment. The other issue is that one of the real intangibles of mature project management competency is the ability to better deploy strategy. To me, this will be one of the greatest executive selling points. If we can clarify this ... make it more than anecdotal evidence ... we should be able to drive more investment in a mature project management competency.

Oh, and one more thing. I think we are going to see a lot more questions than answers from the study. Believe it or not, I am excited about that. The profession is rich with curiosity. PMI needs to continue to fund research to answer these questions. More importantly, challenging questions will be answered by talented researchers, and talented researchers will help build a cadre of competent faculty.

We are at an impasse, though, in that the study has not been fully digested. When I said that Janice and Mark are working round the clock, I meant it. They have an early August deadline to complete the analysis and submit the final manuscript for publication. The study monograph will be published in the early fall for all of us to read. I hate waiting for something I really want and need! However, I have waited four years for this, so I guess a couple of months more won't kill me! However, don't wait. Go to the website and see and listen to Mark and Janice yourself. It was a very polished and informative presentation.

More later.

Conference Scenes, Part 2

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On Monday, Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, presented the findings of PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management study, while conference-goers attended their first sessions and PMI recognized contributions to the research community ...


Proud as a Graduate

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One thing that struck me as principal investigators Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, spoke at their overview presentation on Researching the Value of Project Management was their pride in their team and the team's work in collecting a massive amount of data from 65 organizations around the world, conducting 417 interviews and 344 surveys, and then analyzing all that information.

Trying to imagine what it would be like to stand in front of an audience of your peers at the near-completion of an incredible effort five years in the making, the only analogy that came to mind was graduation. Only, in this case, instead of a person moving on and growing following completion of a degree program, an entire profession with millions of members around the world is graduating to the next level of maturity ... one in which organizations and the world in general will now know the value they create.

To put the power of Researching the Value of Project Management into perspective, Blaize Horner, Ph.D., a professor at Simon Fraser University, told me Dr. Thomas made an "amazingly strong statement for a researcher when she said unequivocally that project management delivers value." Dr. Blaize said researchers rarely use that word unequivocal because research generally brings up more questions than answers. She also said the finding that even at low levels of maturity project management demonstrated value was "very encouraging."

Here We Go

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It was finally show time. Nearly 400 attendees of the PMI Research Conference were joined by a slew of virtual visitors who logged on to watch as Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, delivered one of the most anticipated presentations at the event.

The two principal researchers of PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management quickly got down to business. And then Dr. Thomas gave the statement everyone was waiting for.

"I can state unequivocally that project management delivers value," she said.

Across the board, companies of all types and from nearly every corner of the world see the value of project management. Sometimes the benefits were tangible; sometimes they were intangible. And most organizations seemed to be satisfied with that.

That was the big news for me, but we're just getting started. Dr. Thomas provided just a hint of the broad range of data available when she briefly discussed the case studies. The examples covered everything from a Canadian utility that adopted project management in 2000 to a Chinese construction company forced to implement the discipline in order to secure World Bank funding.

But--oh, come on, you knew there had to be a "but"--the missing element is ROI. It turns out most organizations don't track their investment. And that obviously makes it difficult to determine the return on investment.

Listen & Learn

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It's tough to miss just how excited Ed Andrews, Ph.D., is about the Researching the Value of Project Management study. As PMI's director, academic and education programs & services, Dr. Andrews has been patiently waiting while executives clamored for proof. And now PMI has it: more than 60 cases studies, nearly 450 interviews--many with people in the executive suite. And the study is not limited by geography, by industry or by company size.

They talked. The investigators listened--and learned. The initial results show not only that implementing project management drives business results, but that some companies are even using it as a selling point.

Of course, there is no silver bullet. Organizations do have to find the right fit.

For more, tune in after tomorrow's presentation when Dr. Andrews interviews principal investigators Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP.

Breaking News

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I've just learned that following the live presentation of Researching the Value of Project Management there will be live interviews with principal investigators Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP. Everyone will want to stay tuned for that ...

Our Principal Investigators

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Here's a brief look at the principal researchers behind PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management study:

 Janice Thomas, Ph.D.:
Dr. Thomas serves as associate professor of project management and program director for the Executive MBA in Project Management program at Athabasca University in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada. A veteran of the field for almost 25 years, she was recognzied by PM Network as one of the most influential women in project management in 2006.
Mark Mullaly, PMP: President of Interthink Consulting in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Mr. Mullaly works to integrate expertise in project management, strategy, organizational theory and psychology. He has more than 20 years of experience and his research interests include value of organizational project management, strategic decision-making, and exploration of personal preferences and psychological types.

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