Alexander and the Indian King – Part 5



By John Schlichter

Georgia, USA




I knew there were challenges associated with PMI’s governance of OPM3 from the beginning, but I stuck with it, believing we could work those things out, and my firm benefited even though some significant issues were never resolved satisfactorily. OPM Experts received OPM3-related requests from all kinds of fascinating organizations. Some requests we responded to directly, e.g. the governments of Hong Kong, Kurdistan, and Saudi Arabia, and blue chip companies like IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft. Others we passed along to partners or colleagues, e.g. the government of Iran asked us to use OPM3 to audit all of Iran’s energy projects, starting with its nuclear portfolio, which we passed on due to sanctions. We made powerful friends along the way and have served a “who’s who” list of amazing entities whom we have helped achieve dramatic results in terms of strategy implementation. I wrote vignettes about some of these engagements: AmanaBattelle, CARICOM, European Union’s External Action ServiceHarris CorporationJohnson & Johnson, Kurdistan Regional Government, Melco CrownMicrosoft, Northrop Grumman, Panasonic, Popular Financial, SAP, and Saudi Ministry of Interior. Overall, we had a good run with OPM3, and there is much more to come (though some stories may never be told), but OPM Experts moved on by creating a better model. We never wanted any conflict with PMI, whom we did our best to help create industry standards that would enable PMI to elevate the field of project management to the profession of project management.

My interest in these matters has evolved from OPM3’s apotheosis as I have cultivated empathy for the leaders involved in this narrative. Now I am more intrigued by the institutional logic of the profession than the conflicts of interest and specific instances of competition implied above. OPM Experts LLC is a firm of specialists, our place in our niche is secure, and if the Brightline brand was inspired by OPM Experts LLC we should be flattered (even if we were not acknowledged). However, OPM3’s fate and what followed beg questions that interest many: Where is PMI going? Who gains and who loses, and by which mechanisms of power? Is this development desirable? What, if anything, should we do about it? The logic that produced PMI’s decisions in the six episodes described above persists. Consequently, a schism appears to have emerged between those who envision PMI as a market specialist and those who envision PMI as a full-line generalist, i.e. two camps. There are those who believe PMI’s raison d’etre is to advocate the profession of most of its members (project managers) through standards, certifications, conferences, networking events, and educational materials. Full stop. There are others who believe PMI’s purpose is growth through expanding commercial endeavors, e.g. vertical integration, i.e. combining project management advocacy with strategy management advocacy in ways that make PMI look more and more like a strategy consulting firm. I am wary of people in the latter camp who rationalize their actions by suggesting it serves the former camp. Are you? We are faced with questions of phronesis that appear to some stakeholders all but lost to PMI’s leaders (especially leaders directly involved in these issues who dismiss these concerns with a wave of the hand). Has phronesis been lost to PMI executives in ways that have allowed a logic of instrumentality to trade PMI’s most noble aspirations for more pedestrian ambitions at society’s expense?

I will go on record as saying it is painfully clear to me the field of project management is not the profession of project management that it needs to be to meet the exponential future that is accelerating toward us. I have led countless assessments of Organizational Project Management in organizations of all kinds. One thing which has struck me is that so many of the organizations which have hired me to assess how capably they have implemented PMI standards have been organizations that fundamentally misunderstood the most important aspects of PMI’s standards. Organizations reap huge benefits by correcting those errors, but why were those errors made in the first place? Can we truly say that something is a standard if most organizations implementing it do so incorrectly? Then there is the question of certifications. If organizations comprised of professionals certified by PMI are implementing PMI standards incorrectly, what does that suggest about needing to improve the link between standards and certifications? More importantly, what do these things suggest about the opportunity to improve the efficacy of PMI’s standards and PMI’s certifications to help transform the field of project management into the profession of project management? Leaders interested in tackling that opportunity should consider the four freedoms essential to standards development (outlined above), and it may be helpful to debate whether PMI’s commercial interests have interfered with the standards development process. Could the American Medical Association create and arbitrate standards for America’s doctors if it engaged in the development of medical devices or the acquisition of hospitals? Could the American Bar Association create and arbitrate standards for America’s lawyers if it did any of the things that a law firm does or if it competed with companies the likes of LexisNexis or Amazon and proffered productivity tools or artificial intelligence products that changed the ways lawyers ply their trade? Doing so would surely alienate essential stakeholders and de-legitimatize the trade associations. In short, there are profound issues pertaining to codification of knowledge as standards and, by extension, profound issues pertaining to certifications, that merit any organization involved in such endeavors to seek root causes for those issues. Is commercialism a culprit?



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How to cite this article: Schlichter, J.  (2019). Alexander and the Indian King: Part 5; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue IX, October. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/pmwj86-Oct2019-Schlichter-Alexander-and-the-Indian-King-Part5-1.pdf



About the Author

John Schlichter

Atlanta, GA, USA



John Schlichter coined the term “Organizational Project Management” or “OPM,” which is the system for implementing the business strategy of an organization through projects. OPM became a global standard and is how companies throughout the world deliver projects valued in billions if not trillions of dollars. “John has contributed greatly to PMI,” Greg Balestrero, CEO, PMI Today, 2002. “In John’s role as the leader of PMI’s OPM3 program, he has immeasurably contributed to the growth of the profession,” Becky Winston, J.D., Chair of the Board of Directors, PMI Today, 2002. Having created OPM3© (an international standard in project, program, and portfolio management), John founded OPM Experts LLC, a firm delivering OPM solutions and a leading provider of maturity assessment services. Industry classifications: NAICS 541618 Other Management Consulting and NAICS 611430 Training. John is a member of the adjunct faculty of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

John can be contacted at jschlichter@opmexperts.com or frank.john.schlichter.iii@emory.edu.

To view more works by John Schlichter, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-schlichter/