The image that we have of project managers is determined by our imagination. A project is a temporary undertaking of different size with a clear start and end as well as the required resources – personnel, budget, and infrastructure. Managers are personalities with the role that includes controlling the activities with wide-ranging authority and responsibility for the results. In the end, a project manager actually is a doer, founder, employer, entrepreneur, or leader. The fact that this task is often limited to the role of a clerk or a coordinator without power, explains the fact that projects often do not achieve their objectives.
The company founder normally starts one business at a time. The wrong expectations towards project leaders result in a lack of empowerment and are reflected in the number of parallel projects to be managed – a single project has 100% attention (40 hours per week); each of four projects 25% (10 hours per week); with eight projects 13% each (5 hours per week). Depending on the modus operandi (e.g. PMBoK, PRINCE, GPM or even agile approaches) the activities may differ. However, in any case, communication with the participants has to take place, the team has to be led on request and daily and weekly reports have to be prepared.
- Required communication
This includes the taking care of emails, phone calls and meetings. On average, we have to deal with 21 to 50 daily emails and 11 to 50 phone calls. In addition, meetings with the project teams, managers and external parties are needed, each of which takes between 15 to 60 minutes or even more. With several projects, the project manager sometimes only has one hour per week for this exchange.
- Appropriate leadership
Leading includes personal alignment with employees and managers (e.g. feedback, target agreement, personal career), solving disputes and crises, and providing motivation and support. With in a year, this quickly accounts for 20% of working time – i.e. one day per week across various projects. Of these eight hours per week, sometimes only one hour is available for leadership per initiative.
- Mandatory reports
Comprehensibility is the essential purpose of the reports. Many addressees assume that up-to-dateness, accuracy, consistency and significance come at the push of a button. However, the project manager ensures through random samples that the data and figures provided by the team members are in a timely and correct manner that fit to each other. Daily controlling is the prerequisite for always up-to-date data that are regularly integrated to overarching reports.
- Overarching tasks
The summary of the daily data to weekly, monthly, quarterly milestone and final reports regarding the progress of the project, the employees deployed, the financial consumption as well as the need for action and decision making creates for various stakeholders a current overview. In addition, certain tasks take place weekly, such as the start and end of the week, including lessons learned and plan adjustments. The number of reports can vary from one project to another. With multiple projects, the project manager may merely spend an hour a week to produce conclusive reports in the respective initiative.
- Remaining time
The rest is available for other spontaneous tasks – content-related, relational and personal activities. With several projects, the project manager may have only one hour per week for unexpected tasks.
Bottom line: It should be clear that this workload cannot be compensated by overtime. Projects are the form for today’s tasks. If one takes the objectives seriously and really wants to achieve the desired results, then those ordering parties should offer under all circumstances the project management the chance to commit oneself to one project or to accept the fact that the project will fail with a two-thirds probability. Otherwise: Project managers with five parallel projects have only eight hours per project and week.
The original world knowledge was determined by the experiences that humans witnessed in their immediate environment. They were holistic experiences that were not distorted by mental simplifications. Over centuries this perspective was pushed into the background. With the newest insights it appeared that the world is not a machine, a clockwork, but a naturally grown entity that lives by its own, so far hidden rules. Also the economy slowly starts to understand that new approaches are needed. The organism is the ideal metaphor for such a natural order.
The natural order can not be developed, but grows by its own. You can only try to create fertile basic conditions, so that it develops as desired. The following aspects are concerned.
The organism consists of many, indistinct and strongly exchanging components. This can be cells, organs or other parts of a body. Even if they differ in size, they are on the same level. Biologists or physicians recognize interaction and find starting points to influence. In business similar approaches develop under the heading of Agile organization, Lean management, and subsidiarity. The departure from the actual Taylorism and its breaking down of tasks, authority and responsibility is common to all. Small mobile units, which have full control, are to adapt flexibly to the market requirements. Eventually they adapt like organisms adapt to changing context condition.
An organism grows up and develops over generations special abilities that enable to survive. It uses for this purpose no artificial structures, but interacts spontaneously with its environment. That way also the business areas have to act now. The emphasis goes away from schematic operational sequence, to open, adaptable procedures. Each unit can find and implement its own approach. The cooperation of the enterprise is marked by the fact that all units yearn for a common conception of the future. The exchange of information will create understanding and comprehensibility with the effort of all units that result from the honest needs to communicate and to show interest. Enterprises use words and numbers as information. Organisms use their biochemical messengers.
In a flock of birds it is not possible to identify, where the change of direction starts or who it triggers. There seem to be simple, context related rules. In retrospect you can suspect at best, what the triggers might have been. Enterprises, which get involved in such approaches, have difficulties, because they cannot assign the responsibility for the changes. In this context not one, but all provide the triggers and define together the target. Many efforts seem to fall senselessly flat thereby. For today’s bosses this appears like waste. They forget thereby that all involved people learn and cooperate more effectively in the future. A direct steering harms the nature more, than it is useful. In business it sometimes goes against individual interests.
- Key figures
The organism shows only few objectively attainable key figures – fever, increased pulse, rapid breathing, and changed metabolism. The remaining indicators are qualitatively – fitness, adaptability, agility, and flexibility. In business are rather less measurable key figures – fluctuation, employee burn-outs, bustle, and degree of workload. Success becomes here visible with the monetary results, after everything is over. Readjusting afterwards is difficult. The early gut feeling is the only thing that you have beforehand. The new economic key figures become more and more similar to those of the organism.
The interaction of an organism can only be shown to a certain extent, since the best description can illustrate only part of the reality. The substantial part remains concealed. And it is clear to everyone that a healthy cooperation makes a body viable. Enterprises that live a really open work culture, receive results in unexpected places. The intrinsic motivation of each participant dynamises meetings. Short work rounds produce increasing value by not wasting the time of others because people are only present for the sake of being part of the meeting. The involved people decide only to join a meeting, if it provides a benefit to them and produces thereby an enormous momentum for all. Exactly, as the organism knows ho to pace its forces, the natural order is following the same principles.
Does the bee swarm know that it is an organism out of many individuals? The bees found their way to share their knowledge. The swarm knows quickly, where the best flowers are to be found. The knowledge exchange takes place quasi automatically. Enterprises with natural order have informal channels that bring quickly the knowledge to the places, where needed. The substantial consequences are that not all know everything and only the really needed information is available. Actually it is perfect to dam the flood of information. The dynamic structure of the organism processes the stimuli even in such a way that over time its structure adapts to the new conditions.
Bottom line: The organism is the ideal metaphor for the natural order, as it is recently introduced in business. The pre-requisites for this open form are the adaptability of growing units, the tolerance for different solutions, the let loose of direct influence by the executives, soft key figures, the ability to co-operate spontaneously and the sharing of the common knowledge without hidden agenda.