Overcoming Newton’s First Law of Project Management

A client of ours raised a concern yesterday that reminded me that Newton’s First Law applies to more than just physics – in the absence of net force, PM practices do not change.  The corollary is that inconsistency in PM practices tends to increase rather than decrease over time.

What sometimes contributes to this is the Broken Window (a.k.a. Monkey-see, Monkey-do) syndrome combined with the well intentioned desire to avoid imposing bureaucracy or micro-management on staff.

A challenge for many organizations is that they don’t have metrics in place to be able to justify improvements to PM practices by demonstrating quantitative improvements to profitability or other operational performance indicators.  This results in change reluctance as potential intangible benefits are offset by very tangible perceived risks.

However, one has to remember that the converse is also true – an outcome of successful change is a greater appetite for more change.  Organizations with a successful project management capability improvement program are able to foster a culture that abhors lethargy.

So how do you get your change pendulum swinging?

If you try to get the millstone of PM inertia to move through brute force, even with strong executive sponsorship and support you will fail.  On the other hand, if you adopt a strategy based on introducing incremental changes in a manner that offsets net new effort or costs on staff with “some” perceived benefits, and if you are able to reward early converts to the “new way” such that they become advocates, your PM change initiative can become self-sustainable

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Portfolio Management | Tags: | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Overcoming Newton’s First Law of Project Management

  1. I agree with you. In my experience, we should start with easy to implement but good pay-off actions first. That’s what I call sweet spot to trigger improvement process wheel rolling. Keep sharing your good ideas! I really enjoy it.


  2. kbondale

    Thanks for the feedback Naing!


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