Project Management needs a Higher Purpose


Part 1: Introduction, the Perfect Storm, Crises and Project Management



By David Pells

Managing Editor

Addison, Texas, USA




This is a follow-on to my June 2020 editorial on black elephants[1]. It’s a somewhat obvious extension and partial answer to the question posed at the end of the June editorial regarding ‘what to do about it’.  What can (or should) the project management professional world be doing to help address some (or all) of the charging black elephants, the looming global problems such as climate change, disease, hunger, homelessness, etc. These are my current thoughts on the matter but I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging around the world, and especially here in the United States, I also wanted to return to the Black Elephant question related to this health crisis.  The pandemic has also dramatically exacerbated such global problems as unemployment, poverty, hunger, access to education, inequality and others.  The Black Elephants have multiplied, grown larger and are moving faster.  Some, like the pandemic, seem to have morphed into a flock of Black Swans, at the national, local and project levels.

Meanwhile, climate change and global warming have continued.  We are also coming to the end of the current presidential administration in the United States, a period marked by corruption, incompetence and unethical behavior by those in powerful positions. One of the world’s oldest (modern) democracies has teetered on collapse as a large portion of the population seemed to be reverting to 19th century attitudes and behavior.  Perhaps more importantly, civil society itself seems to be at risk, as the rule of law has been threatened, institutions weakened, and social unrest exacerbated. History came alive as we studied the past and tried to predict the future. But what future do we want?

It is often difficult to step back, to consider the big picture or long-term consequences of current conditions or trends.  Nevertheless, we must occasionally do so.  As I’ve gotten older, I find myself thinking more about the history and future of the PM field, program and project life cycles, changes and trends in the world that affect our profession.

So now I ask again, what is the project management world doing in response to the current pandemic and other black elephants? What can we do, now or in the future?  What about the future? Obviously I don’t know everything, cannot predict the future, may be missing important information or contexts, may just be wrong.  But here are my thoughts.


To read entire editorial, click here

How to cite this paper: Pells, D.L. (2021). Project Management needs a Higher Purpose! Part 1: Introduction, the Perfect Storm, Crises and Project Management; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue I, January.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pmwj101-Jan2021-Pells-project-management-needs-a-higher-purpose-part-1-2.pdf




About the Author

David L. Pells

Managing Editor, PMWJ
Managing Director, PMWL


David L. Pells, PMI Fellow, HonFAPM, ISIPM, PMA, SOVNET is Managing Editor and publisher of the PM World Journal (www.pmworldjournal.com) and Managing Director of the PM World Library (www.pmworldlibrary.net). David is an internationally recognized leader in the field of professional project management with more than 40 years of experience on a variety of programs and projects, including engineering, construction, energy, defense, transit, technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from thousands to billions of dollars. He occasionally acts as project management advisor for U.S. national laboratories and international programs, and currently serves as an independent advisor for a major U.S. national security program.

David Pells has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, as founder and president of several PMI chapters, founder of PMI’s first SIG (Project Earth), and member of the PMI board of directors twice.  He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world. David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; the Instituto Italiano di Project Management (ISIMP – Italy); Project Management Associates (PMA – India); and the Russian Project Management Association (SOVNET).  In 2010 he was made an honorary member of the Project Management Association of Nepal.

Former managing editor of PM World Today, he is the creator, editor and publisher of the PM World Journal (ISSN: 2330-4880).  David has a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and an MBA from Idaho State University in the USA.  He has published widely and spoken at conferences and events worldwide.  David lives near Dallas, Texas and can be contacted at editor@pmworldjournal.com.

To see other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/


[1] Pells, D. L. (2020). Black Elephants and … maybe Project Management. PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VI, June. https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/pmwj94-Jun2020-Pells-black-elephants-and-maybe-project-management-editorial3.pdf