Why Brahma was our first Project Manager
Over a period of time, I will bring forth a holistic treatment of the art and science of project management.
On one side there are Projects, and on the other, everything else. Indeed, of all the things that we do in our life, "Projects" make up one category, and rest can be clubbed together as "all others"! If the activities of creation, maintenance and destruction together form the great Hindu religious trinity, then creation is synonymous with Projects, and obviously, there are no prizes for guessing as to which of these three is most exciting. Thus, the so-called creator, Brahma, may be pompously designated as the first ever Project Manager, although little may be known about the tools and processes he deployed for managing his Projects! Whenever I have stood on a piece of land before commencement of construction, I have tried to envision the landscape after a few years, and it is interesting to compare the actual developments later. Helping to create anything meaningful in an empty space can be very fulfilling, and this is the essence of "Projects" as I see it, - this transformation from "before" to "after".
When we say "Projects", many weather-beaten project managers would mean construction projects only, and the graphic imagery of Cranes, Bulldozers, Concrete Mixers, etc., come to mind immediately. It is important to get this point clarified at the beginning itself. For me, the job of creating anything new and complex, for a stated purpose, is a Project. Theorists will jump in with detailed categorisation of various types of Projects, which can be very boring, but we need to appreciate that technically speaking, whenever a large number of activities are planned to be conducted by several differentiated entities to achieve a common end, it can be called a Project. Diverse things such as development of software, implementation of a new business process, making an IPO, development of a new product, furnishing a new house, etc., do all qualify as projects, just as conventional projects like building a new road/bridge, or constructing a steel plant or setting up a textile mill. You see, Projects do come in many sizes and shapes! Therefore, as we go forward, we shall try to deal with matters relating to this all encompassing understanding of projects and their management, rather than be limited by the narrow, conventional definition.
However, today I wish to start from a somewhat higher level of thinking and approach, and talk about"Nation Building" as a great Project, the absence of which is currently so disappointing in our country. Some of the greatest Nation Builders of our times, like Kemal Ataturk, Nelson Mandela, or Lee Kuan Yew, who succeeded in achieving their goals of uplifting their respective nations, did adapt (one would suspect) basic methods and approaches like planning, goal setting, establishing or owning accountability, delegation of authority, communications, tracking of progress and making corrective changes, all of which are fundamental project management tools.
We can only hope that our future leaders also look upon their job of governing and improving our country as a massive Project (which it surely is!) and approach the task with appropriate management systems and tools, with the assistance of specialists, and with some modicum of Accountability. But, isn't the process of Nation Building, a collective of many sub-projects in multi-disciplinary areas of education, health, infrastructure, businesses and industry, strewn all over the geography of our country? Isn't this something in which all of us have to participate and contribute! If that be so, for our country to progress and succeed, we all have to embrace a culture of Project Management, which starts with the discipline of following a given process. It is here, that magazines like ours can make a difference, by de-mystifying the topic, and by making it rewarding and popular, such that, one day Project Management becomes a way of life for us, not just for the cement sector.
While signing off for now, let me throw at you an anonymous saying about projects in a lighter vein:
No major project is ever completed on time, within budget, with the same team that started it, nor does the project do what it was supposed to do. It is highly unlikely that yours will be the first, unless, of course, you are a re- incarnation of Brahma!
- SUMIT BANERJEE
From this issue onwards, this will be a regular column, focussing on project management.