Innovation in project management: Can it be done?

Successful businesses today focus time and energy on innovation, on pushing employees to try new and different ways of working.

That got me thinking — how can we innovate in project management?

Innovating in IT hardware is relatively common: Look at the success of ARM or the general agreement that surrounds Moore’s Law.

Even innovation in software has become expected, with the arrival of code factories and code sharing facilities such as Github.

But how, in an area that is 90 percent communications, do you innovate?

One answer could be that the program and project community has, in recent years, moved away from the iron triangle of budget, scope and schedule.

For example, in my role as program manager I interview project managers. Bringing in projects on time, on budget and to the correct scope is still a necessary condition but it is no longer a sufficient condition to gain employment. What is of more interest is the value added to the business at the end of the project. Questions I might ask are:

  • What was the value added to our own organisation?
  • What was the value added to the client’s organisation?

Value can be a difficult concept but there is no doubt that any project underway in today’s business climate should aim to improve both businesses in addition to achieving the targeted outcome. But how?

The answer, my friends, comes down to the art of communication.

Communication in its purest form is the ability to make another person understand you. Improving this ability, the ability to relate to other humans and to be understood by them, is the key to innovating in project management.

Leaving aside the media used to communicate — the rise of social media, collaboration tools and virtual teams have enabled project and program managers to communicate more widely than ever before — we are left with the fundamental requirement for program and project managers to hold excellent personal communication skills.

Based on this, I can offer seven tips to innovate in project and program management:

  1. Learn to negotiate
  2. Learn to apply neuro-linguistic programming (i.e. how the words we choose can influence people)
  3. Learn the art of public speaking
  4. Learn the “simple” art of conversation
  5. Learn the art of listening
  6. Learn business writing
  7. Learn about psychology and the art of persuasion

None of these are quantitative. They all add to our ability to communicate. They all make a qualitative difference to our performance. And if you are already skilled in these areas? You can always get better.

Isn’t it time to innovate your project management approach?


The new ways of working

When silence is golden and when it’s not


  1. Steve,thank you for the nice article on innovation in PM. I do agree project mangers main roles is related to communication and it is challenging role. Innovation usually happen not by same individuals instead they happen because somebody else had different perspective, idea and found a way to do things differently which sometimes also disrupt the market. In the role where most of the job(90%) is done because of communication, I’d also welcome fresh or different perspective be it from individuals or other industries.They might not come as quantitative suddenly but if we keep our eyes open for them, such ideas may strike to implement and improve our performance heavily.



  1. […] Innovation in project management: Can it be done? […]


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