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How many times have you heard people confidently say that they have delivered their projects to time, cost and quality? The classic triangle of measures is a comforting mantra for project managers, however it does not cover all that project managers need to do these days and it may even be compounding failure in the new complex, uncertain change world we live in.

In most organisations projects do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of a portfolio or a programme and they need to be managed within the context of that organisation or their parent initiative. What is the point of delivering a project to the planned time, cost and quality if you have to make such wide ranging change in the organisation that you impinge on three other mission critical projects? In that case might it not be better that you don’t deliver to TCQ? In fact success may be that the project is stopped. Project Managers are often uncomfortable with this uncertainty, and find it hard to accept that the success of their single project may not be the top priority, in fact the best project managers are those that stop projects that should not be done.

More and more change initiatives (and by the term initiatives we try and cover portfolio’s, programmes and projects in one breath) are being uncovered as being of Ohara’s third generation. Change initiatives are uncertain entities in an uncertain world and their definition and the ability to define deliverable items to achieve the desired outcome can only be uncovered over time, by a collection of stakeholders within and outside the company delivering the change.

 Two key questions arise

1) In what way do we need to change our management behaviours as project managers?

2) What does success look like for these third Generation initiatives?

The most important questions that a project manager can ask, and work to answer, are:

Why, and then how are we doing this?

What does it deliver to the organisation, and the strategic direction?

What risk are we taking on in delivering, or not delivering this change?

What uncertainties and ambiguities do we currently have?

What and who else do we impact?

Only once we have answered these questions can we really begin to worry about delivering to time, cost and quality.