In project management, most available bodies of knowledge seem to address indifferently all kinds of projects. Yet, real life shows that realizing a new piece of software has little to do with streamlining a supply chain or organizing the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Mao Zedong identified this problem a long time ago. He wrote a text right after the Long March: Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War. Mao explained in this text the lessons he learned from the Long March :
[People] say that it is enough merely to study the laws of war in general… They do not see that these manuals give merely the laws of war in general and moreover are wholly copied from abroad, and that if we copy and apply them exactly without the slightest change in form or content, we shall be “cutting the feet to fit the shoes” and be defeated.
But here is the solution according to Mao. In effect, if you read Mao’s book further, you will read this:
The laws of war—this is a problem that anyone directing a war must study and solve.
The laws of revolutionary war—this is a problem that anyone directing a revolutionary war must study and solve.
The laws of China’s revolutionary war—this is a problem that anyone directing a revolutionary war in China must study and solve.
If you paraphrase these three statements, you can replace war by project, revolutionary war by major or complex project, and China by the name of the ecosystem where your project takes places.
Here is what it produces:
- The laws of project management—this is a problem that anyone directing a project must study and solve.
- The laws of complex project management—this is a problem that anyone directing a complex project must study and solve.
- The laws of complex project management in [this ecosystem]—this is a problem that anyone directing a complex project in [this ecosystem] must study and solve.
What does it mean for you? A career in project management is a very exciting journey. learning and growing have no limits. The traditional bodies of knowledge help tremendously? Yet they are insufficient to guaranty the success in all situations.
Directing the organization of the future Olympic Games in Paris requires a very high level of specific expertise and experience. Leading the digital transformation of your company relies on a different set of capabilities. And building a new aircraft or a new submarine is a profession in itself.
I wish project management professional associations publish not only the traditional basic knowledge, but also the elements specific to a variety of professions and projects.
To your continued success,