Best-selling author David Allen wrote a comment on PMThink
, that I've copied here....
Garry, Jerry, delighted to get a glimpse into your world and your thinking about this. At the risk of being somewhat simple on this whole topic, what's missing for me is the answer to "what's the purpose?" relative to deciding what the definition of a project is. My purpose was simply to get people to identify commitments they have that they'd better keep track of, in order to feel OK what they're doing (and not doing) about them at any point in time. If you can finish something in one sitting, with 99% surety, then, sure, no need to call it a "project." But if you're likely to NOT finish in one sitting, and get interrupted before the commitment is complete, you'd better have some stake in the ground that will remind you of that "open loop" - otherwise your psyche will have to be tracking it instead of your system (which is the curse of knowledge workers who haven't yet trained themselves to keep it all objectified and out of their heads).
Also, my simple definition puts the onus back on each of us to identify those kinds of outcomes that people seldom call "projects" but which really are. E.g. "Get kids onto cruise control for the new school year" and "Handle dad's elder care situation."
Thanks again, Garry, for letting me peak into your world here.
David: My telling the Project Management Institute (PMI
) that I have a better definition of the word "project" is a lot like telling the American Dental Association (ADA
) that I have a better definition of the word "tooth." That's how foundational the definition is to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK(R)
). When we decide something is a project, it is only natural that we apply PM knowledge, skills and tools. But, unlike the ADA analogy, PMI's dividing line between a project and a non-project is an abstraction (temporariness and uniqueness) and a source of confusion and error. It's a good thing dentists don't have these debates.
So here's a direct answer to your question "What's the purpose relative to deciding what a project is?" My purpose is called "Management by Project (MBP)
" which is beyond the scope of the current PMBOK Guide
. MBP is much broader than personal management, and much broader than project management. MBP includes, for example, how to translate strategy to front-line daily action. This example (just one I could have chosen) is no small matter because many organizations live or die with their ability to execute a new strategy. Perhaps some failed companies would have been more successful if their executives had practical PM knowledge, practical skills and practical tools. So my purpose is to stop with the abstractions, and go straight for a practical approach: Start with an objective, then translate the objective into a set of intended outcomes (interim and final), and then translate each intended outcome into a set of front-line daily actions. The strategic objective is our stake in the ground. It is Getting Things Done writ large.
What's remarkable, to me, is that the power of outcome focusing described in Chapter 13 of your book, and the power of the next-action decision in Chapter 12 are exactly the tools we need to translate strategy to action, among other things. The combination of intended outcomes and next-actions, like the combination of elementary particles, is remarkably scalable (and sticky) idea.Thanks for writing, David!