Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | October 26, 2009

Changing the status quo: Thoughts about Alexander Laufer articles

[tweetmeme source=”giladlsh”]

Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change, and all patterns alter.

Sharon Salzberg

People look for patterns. The human’s mind try to find patterns in every aspect of his life and then  adjust his view and actions according to the patterns he see , read in the books or hear from other people. A good example of how pattern and paradigms influence our investments decisions (not necessarily improve them) can be found in the book:” Do Chimpanzees Dream of Retirement” by Jacob Burak, Kinneret Zmora- Bitan, Dvir,2007.

Burak explain the human thinking diversions, the limitations they cause and the risks arising from them (in our investment decisions). The project management profession also suffers from these problems. We tend to look on every project in the same eyes, set our familiars procedures, meetings and reports. Our traditional project management training, focus on shaping our projects to the known mode of operation, sometimes without any connection to the real situation and demands.

One of the major problems a project can have is a PM who focuses too much in the technical side of the project (procedures, standards and so on) and forgets that his major role is to lead it. He focuses too much in flowcharts and not in his people. He try to move only in the familiar traditional way of managing projects, and not really understand the project deliverables, what he need to do in order to achieve them and what he can neglect.

Few articles (Managing Projects in a Dynamic Environment: Results-Focused Leadership and Interview with Alexander Laufer from September issue ) – both of them appear in the ASK magazine – which I had the chance to read in the last days, written by Alexander Laufer , Director , Central for Project Leadership, Columbia University, deal with these problems and suggest other views on the project management process. 

Be warned against all ‘good’ advice because ‘good’ advice is necessarily ‘safe’ advice, and though it will undoubtedly follow a sane pattern, it will very likely lead one into total sterility–one of the crushing problems of our time.

Jules Feiffer  

In his interview for ASK magazine, A.Laufer point that the current project management tools and techniques need to be adjust for today projects environment. Instead of the  idea that planning and control solve all problems, we should be focused more in the way we lead our projects,  “projects must be led, not just managed” .

Today volatile environment force us to adjust the way we do our projects from one project to another and also during the same project period. We must accept it (Project’s unexpected : change as a way of life for today PM). We must always challenge the status quo and try to find the best way to achieve the project deliverables.

In his interview A.Laufer emphasize the importance of learning from experienced PMs. I think most PMs in today environment can identify with the remark that” experience people are aware of the limitations of planning tools”.  

In the his article, A.Laufer present the result-focused leadership principles ( planning and control, implementation, attitude, people and organization , communication). These principles are followed by relevant projects stories. These principles are suggested as “general guidance” which should be modified according to the specific project demands.

 The main motive of the article is not to forget from all our project tools ,techniques and procedures. They could be very useful and accelerate the project progress (they are all based on experience). The idea is that PMs should be sensitive to their people. They should focus on the deliverables. They need to choose the appropriate way of action and not just choose automatically in the safe / known (not necessarily smart) way.

One example I can give for a simple change we made in one of our projects (which was made after several tough projects that damage the customer confidence), can clarify Laufer ideas about trusting people, giving a sense of a ‘mission’ and changing the status quo:

When external designers involve in our construction projects, they present their package in the design reviews. In order to create more involvement of our project team engineers (the internal engineers) and to deepen the confidence of our customers during the review, we change our mode of operation: every package was created by the external designer, but was presented by the internal engineer.

 This cause for several things: the internal engineers were more involved in the design process (problems were solved faster) , the design reviews past smoothly (and by that I do not mean that remarks were not given), and all this cycle gave our team a sense of mission that make them pride in their work.

The project was completed successfully. Not just because of this change, but I have no doubt that this has major effect on the team work.  

 To summarize this post : I recommend every PM who understand that project management contain more than just procedures and standards to review these articles.

Good luck!



Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


  1. Gilad, good job. Based on my experience being an ITIL change manager and a PMP practicing management of projects – i agree: there should be a common sense using the procedures. In PMI’s vocabulary this is called tail tailoring. Thanks also for the inspiring quotes.


    • Thanks Primoz, for your encouragement.

      As you said, the used of procedures should be balance -with common sense. As the project got complicated usually you increase your control and vice versa.
      Need just to keep our mind open.


  2. Greetings Gilad,
    I thought you might want to be aware that earlier this year Alex Laufer started writing a new blog, Living Order. The new blog is produced via the Consortium for Project Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which he co-leads.
    The first blog post this spring discussed the concept of “living order” and how it applies to today’s project managers. It can be read here:
    There have been additional posts since then, on about a monthly basis.
    Thought you might want to be aware. Best wishes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: