Metaphors we live by (Part 5)


Continuing the series on Metaphor, this article draws from an business example, one that is associated with my own profession: Project Management and Program Management. This specific example comes from one book that has a theme or metaphor throughout the whole book, which is very well used. So this is a metaphor used to explain a complex discipline.

Visualizing Project Management

Visualizing Project Management third edition, has four parts:

  1. Part One draws on systems thinking to consider the project environment, highlighting the critical role of solution and stakeholder requirements.
  2. Part Two applies our visual model to reveal the relationships and interdependencies among the major project success factors.
  3. Part Three provides the tactics required to navigate skillfully in order to achieve the project goals.
  4. Part Four describes how processes can best be deployed to achieve predictable performance improvements.

Why to Projects Fail?

The authors in this section use the metaphor/analogy: the blind men who encounter the elephant and reach different conclusions concerning the nature of the beast.

WHY DO COMPLEX SYSTEMS HAVE A DISMAL PROJECT PERFORMANCE RECORD?
Failure often results from flawed perception of what is involved in successfully managing complex system development from inception through completion. Even experienced managers often disagree on important aspects, like the blind men who encounter the elephant and reach different conclusions concerning the nature of the beast. In the parable, the man feeling the tail concludes the elephant is like a rope, while the man holding the trunk decides the elephant is like a snake. Project reality is such a complex organism that personal experience alone can result in biased and flawed views.

Another strong theme is The metaphor of the Symphony Orchestra for a great Project Team

From Part One: Using Models and Frameworks to Master Complex Systems:

...our metaphor for a great project team, is a symphony orchestra, each musician capable of solo performances, but committed to teamwork.
The metaphor of the Symphony Orchestra for a great Project Team

As in previous editions, the wheel and axle model is the centerpiece—the basis for visualizing the overall project management process and for structuring the book’s content. The theme of the book, and our metaphor for a great project team, is a symphony orchestra, each musician capable of solo performances, but committed to teamwork. This edition emphasizes the pivotal role of systems engineering, the first violinist in the orchestra metaphor.

Note that the first violinist is systems engineering, the team’s technical lead that, in project teams, frequently sets the pace and orchestrates the technical players in timing and intensity.

Definitions

Project Management
The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. From PMI®
Program management or Programme Management
Program management or programme management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization’s performance. In practice and in its aims it is often closely related to systems engineering.
There are two different views of how programs differ from projects. On one view, projects deliver outputs, discrete parcels or “chunks” of change; programs create outcomes.
On this view, a project might deliver a new factory, hospital or IT system. By combining these projects with other deliverables and changes, their programs might deliver increased income from a new product, shorter waiting lists at the hospital or reduced operating costs due to improved technology. The other view is that a program is nothing more than either a large project or a set (or portfolio) of projects.
On this second view, the point of having a program is to exploit economies of scale and to reduce coordination costs and risks. The project manager’s job is to ensure that their project succeeds. The program manager, on the other hand, may not care about individual projects, but is concerned with the aggregate result or end-state. For example, in a financial institution a program may include one project that is designed to take advantage of a rising market, and another to protect against the downside of a falling market. These projects are opposites with respect to their success conditions, but they fit together in the same program. From Wikipedia

Copyrights and References

PMI® and PMBOK® Guide are service and trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. that are registered in the United States and other nations.
Visualizing Project Management: Models and frameworks for mastering complex systems
Third Edition
Kevin Forsberg, Phd, CSEP, Hal Mooz, PMP, CSEP Howard Cotterman

“The power of a science seems quite generally to increase with the number of symbolic generalizations its practitioners have at their disposal.” Thomas Kuhn

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