Project Management: When tribes have no purpose

April 12, 2010
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I received my PM Network magazine in the mail this weekend. The Project Management Institute  (PMI) publishes this magazine and sends it to all its paid members. I was doing some research last year and I wanted to see the latest PMI guides and therefore needed to join to do so (a yearly membership is US$129). The PM Network magazine is your typical magazine filled with paid ads and stories. All articles include a common thread—how project management helped this person or that organization manage schedule, scope, and resources.

The PMI has done an amazing job at 1) convincing a lot of people they need project management certification, and 2) creating a large tribe of paid followers (more than half a million members). The glossy, professional looking PM Network magazine, I’m sure, is not cheap to produce and deliver. I wondered what the purpose of the PMI was other than to promote their certifications, standards, materials, and services. I understand the need for building community and sharing practices, which the PMI provides for members, but I continue to be amazed that they can command expensive membership fees to do so. A tribe—a group of

 

I received my PM Network magazine in the mail this weekend. The Project Management Institute  (PMI) publishes this magazine and sends it to all its paid members. I was doing some research last year and I wanted to see the latest PMI guides and therefore needed to join to do so (a yearly membership is US$129). The PM Network magazine is your typical magazine filled with paid ads and stories. All articles include a common thread—how project management helped this person or that organization manage schedule, scope, and resources.

The PMI has done an amazing job at 1) convincing a lot of people they need project management certification, and 2) creating a large tribe of paid followers (more than half a million members). The glossy, professional looking PM Network magazine, I’m sure, is not cheap to produce and deliver. I wondered what the purpose of the PMI was other than to promote their certifications, standards, materials, and services. I understand the need for building community and sharing practices, which the PMI provides for members, but I continue to be amazed that they can command expensive membership fees to do so. A tribe—a group of people connected to one another and to an idea—that’s focused on promoting their credentials and standards but isn’t linked to any greater purpose is puzzling (and disappointing) to me.

Project management is simply a means to an end and what matters is the end result—results that make a difference. Project management, like change management, is one of many skills that people need to achieve results, lead change, improve performance, drive innovation, and move ideas forward. Should we form tribes with certifications and standards around them? I question the purpose. I question the intent of the self serving stakeholders that want to control arbitrary standards. Some would argue that certifications provide a baseline of knowledge to 1) provide a standard upon which to judge, and 2) give a field credibility. Not so, I say. A tribe with a purpose is the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better. Credibility and benchmarks for excellence will be a natural outcome. Phil Mikelson’s win at the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament this weekend is a great example. His life, his game, his actions and behaviors on an off the course set the standard for excellence. No certification required. Phil’s philanthropy work and his dedication to his family serve a purpose and that’s why his tribe of followers cheered when he sunk his birdie putt on the 18th green at Augusta National Gold Club yesterday.

Do the tribes you join serve a purpose?