Five Foundations for the Advancement of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
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. Not only have we helped to advance the practice of project and program management (an ongoing goal), we have inspired others to follow our lead: They are now also promoting (their own interpretation of) most of our Five Foundations, and many of our innovations.

We founded IPMA-USA after having been among the key drivers of success of other professional organizations, including 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 business case 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.

IPMA-USA Founders
IPMA-USA was founded by a group of long-time pm practitioners with a variety of backgrounds: Practicing project managers; Managers of project managers; pm consultants and trainers; educators and authors. Founders of chapters and officers of other organizations, the average pm industry experience of the founding group in 2001 was around 20 years, with some going back 35 years and more.

Most had earned the Institute’s certification (Lew Ireland wrote its first exam). And we realized that there was a lot more needed than an exam to accelerate needed organizational benefits 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, a dedicated group set out to advance the practice of project and program management in America.

Michael McClain, who became IPMA-USA’s first President, was a manager in a telecom company, and prior to that, an accomplished project manager. He was the key person in the founding of the Institute’s Colorado Springs chapter. Part of the reason he led the founding of IPMA-USA was that he saw the need for more than what organizations were offering members.

Lew Ireland had been President of the Institute, and 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, as the capacity of Board Members to manage all activities in their areas of responsibility was a key weakness for the growth the organization was experiencing.

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 was and continues to be a primary factor in the advancements of the practice of project and program management for the last 20 years (our opinion, based on being a competitor 25 years ago). When Duncan was not busy advancing the practice of project and program management, he was a successful international pm consultant.

Bob Youker, a long-time contributor to the practice of project management, ranging from prolific publishing of articles and speaking at conferences for over 20 years, helping developing countries grow their infrastructure through projects funded by World Bank, to managing a company that marketed some of the first project management tools (Planalog), and more. A strong contributing member to Project Management Institute from its earliest days, rumor is that Bob should have been recognized as an honorary Fellow. The drawback: some were concerned that Bob was also heavily involved with IPMA, International Project Management Association, originally called INTERNET. That was viewed as competition.

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

Pat Morgan was interested in establishing affiliations, and in an International footprint for IPMA-USA.

Dan McKee, Secretary-Treasurer, brought order to our finances and recordkeeping. Most of the IPMA-USA 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 to develop the strategy, charter, offerings and support materials for a new organization—thanks to Duncan’s and Youker’s willingness to repeatedly fly to Colorado. 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 performance 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: Even though we participated in the change in governance in the other organization (deemed essential for its growth), the market needs a professional society that focuses on the needs of practitioners, and remains practitioner-driver.
  • Retain Intellectual Property Ownership: The authors and owners of intellectual property should retain the rights to their work, to encourage sharing, and building upon the innovations to establish new breakthroughs. Recent patterns of gaining control of intellectual property have choked off the 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 reversed the trend of improvements in project success.
  • PM Performance Competence Is Our Target: While 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, 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, 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 progress 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.

We are pleased when others perceive us and refer to us today as the thought leaders in project and program management in the USA. We are also gratified that other professional organizations are following our lead, by embracing (in part 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.

Your suggestions can help us plan the next Sustaining Initiatives for IPMA-USA’s advancements of the practice of project and program management in the USA. We know that our readership includes the best and brightest, as well as 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?

PMBOK is a registered trademark of Project Management Institute in the USA and other countries.