Project Management needs a Higher Purpose – Part 4:


The Future of Project Management, Some Questions, Some Suggestions, First Things First and What’s it to be?



By David Pells

Managing Editor

Addison, Texas, USA


In late December 2020, I authored a long editorial as a follow-on to my June 2020 editorial on black elephants[1]. On good advice, that long editorial was broken into four parts so that a few more readers might make it to the end.  This is the fourth part. For those interested in reading the long editorial in one sitting, it has been posted in the PM World Library.[2]

In part 1 published in January, 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. In February’s part 2, I discussed mission statements, social responsibility and the ‘rogue black elephant’, corruption.  In part 3 last month, I asked some questions such as if the planet is destroyed or civil society collapses, what good is a free market, productivity, projects or project management?  What is project success, if the wrong projects are initiated, even if completed to scope, schedule and cost? Shouldn’t the right projects also be good projects? Does governance really work?

This month I again ask some hard questions, offer some suggestions and challenge the PM professional world. But please don’t forget the questions raised in the previous segments of this editorial.  Covid-19 vaccinations are increasing, yet infections and hospitalizations are rising again in many places (and running rampant in Brazil). The world needs more vaccinations and healthcare projects to be delivered faster. The impact of climate change continues to grow, as we’ve seen recently with torrential rainfall and flooding in Australia[3] and a record setting heat wave across Europe this week.[4] More drought and fires are forecast for the Southwestern United States this year[5] and the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is projected to be another active one.[6]

Perhaps the most serious issue related to the black elephants is the impact on children around the world.  The Covid-19 Pandemic has had a devasting impact on education, with the World Bank estimating that the education of 1.6 billion children has been disrupted[7]. Healthcare, nutrition, housing shortages among families and children have increased; homelessness among children has increased in America[8]; unaccompanied children are crossing the US border with Mexico in record numbers.[9]

There are of course many other global problems to worry about, and to seek solutions to.  Keep in mind that most solutions will involve programs and projects, so why shouldn’t project management experts be involved in planning and leading those efforts.  I was very heartened to see Alan Stretton jump into this issue with his February paper titled “Towards extending the scope of project-related management to help address climate change and other global problems”. (Stretton 2021b)[10] Alan was responding directly to my editorial.  Please also see Bob Prieto’s reaction with his brilliant featured paper last month titled “Reversing Global Warming”. (Prieto 2021) Several others have weighed in; I hope others will do so as well.

Meanwhile let’s start this final segment with thoughts on the future of project management.

The Future of PM – a Few Comments

The future of project management seems to be everyone’s favorite topic these days.  Dozens of articles are published early each year with authors predicting trends and developments for the coming one, five or ten years. But what about projects and project management in 10, 20 or 50 years, if the planet is unlivable or civil society collapses, in one or more countries?


To read entire editorial, click here

How to cite this paper: Pells, D.L. (2021). Project Management needs a Higher Purpose! Part 4: The Future of Project Management, Some Questions, Some Suggestions, First Things First and What’s it to be? Editorial, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pmwj104-Apr2021-Pells-project-management-needs-a-higher-purpose-editorial-part-4.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://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148093/historic-floods-in-new-south-wales
[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/04/01/europe-record-warm-heat/
[5] https://www.redzone.co/2021/02/10/wildfire-outlook-july-2020-2-2/
[6] https://www.accuweather.com/en/hurricane/accuweathers-2021-atlantic-hurricane-season-forecast/924431
[7] https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/new-global-tracker-measure-pandemics-impact-education-worldwide
[8] https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/who-experiences-homelessness/children-and-families/
[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56405009
[10] https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pmwj102-Feb2021-Stretton-extending-project-related-management-to-help-address-global-problems.pdf