Project Management needs a Higher Purpose: Part 2


Mission Statements, Social Responsibility and the Rogue Black Elephant



By David Pells

Managing Editor
Addison, Texas, USA



In late December, I authored a long editorial as a follow-on to my June 2020 editorial on black elephants[1]. On good advice, that long editorial has been broken into four parts so that a few more readers might make it to the end.  That said, the long original covers many topics, all of which I thought important to my argument that the project management professional world needs a higher purpose than earning more money, helping organizations become more efficient or profitable, or just advancing PM processes, methods or skills. What is that higher purpose though?  It’s for us to decide.  For those interested in reading the long editorial, it has been posted in the PM World Library.[2]

Meanwhile, in part 1 published last month, I introduced the topic and referred to my June black elephants editorial in which I discussed the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and other global problems (the black elephants that everyone knows about but few seem to want to address) and what the PM professional world could (or should) be doing to help.

Well, the pandemic rages on.  Vaccines are being rolled out worldwide, but in may places it seems to be going way too slowly.  As of today (Feb 4th) there have been 105, 133, 357 cases and 2,284,281 deaths worldwide (27.1 million cases and 462,253 deaths in the USA; 10.8 million cases and 154,841 deaths in India; 9.3 millions cases and 227,883 deaths in Brazil; 3.9 million cases and 110,259 deaths in the UK).[3]  Predictions for the remainder of 2021 remain dire for many parts of the world.  Progress is being made, but how much time has already been lost?  Here in the U.S., the GAO recently published a report that is highly critical of the U.S. government Covid response during the Trump adminstration.[4] Many of the failures mentioned are related to projects and programs that never happened or happened too slowly or incompletely, or because of blatant leadership failures.

As also pointed out last month, 2020 started not with the pandemic but with massive fires and climate related disasters unfolding around the world, but especially in the Southern hemisphere.  Well its happening again, as a massive fire is threatening the city of Perth in Western Australia this week.[5]  Antarctica and Greenland are melting, oceans are rising and cities are sinking into the sea.  Millions of children worldwide are still out of school or falling behind due to the Covid pandemic; healthcare is crumbling; migration continues as millions flee broken political and social systems; the black elephants seem to be increasing in number and size.

In part 1, I also tried to credit those PM organizations which are, in fact, doing good things, trying to help in small but meaningful ways.  But is it enough, or is it too little too late? What is project management for anyway?  More importantly, are we working on the right projects?  I highlighted the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a possible benchmark for addressing these questions.  But really, what I was trying to get at was this.  As experts in the delivery of programs and projects, don’t we have a responsibility to society to help solve global problems?

That is what I discuss in the balance of this month’s segment. That and what might be the biggest roadblock of all, what I call the Rogue Black Elephant – Corruption.  But first, what is our vision for the profession?


To read entire editorial, click here

How to cite this paper: Project Management needs a Higher Purpose! Part 2: Mission Statements, Social Responsibility and the Rogue Black Elephant, editorial; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue II, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/pmwj102-Feb2021-Pells-project-management-needs-a-higher-purpose-editorial-part-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
[2] https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pmwj101-Jan2021-Pells-project-management-needs-a-higher-purpose-editorial-January-complete2.pdf
[3] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
[4] https://www.gao.gov/assets/720/712030.pdf and https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gao-trump-covid-biden/2021/02/02/38f0a0a8-65a4-11eb-bf81-c618c88ed605_story.html
[5] https://www.9news.com.au/national/western-australia-perth-hills-bushfire-threatening-homes-shady-hills-wooroloo-evacuations/c6a46041-8279-4e7f-958c-10057d970f9b