Our February Guest Blogger, John Chapman of Touchstone FMS Ltd is going to explore the variety of roles and personalities that project and programme managers may need to adopt to deliver their project successfully. For this first blog, he suggests that the common stereotypes of project managers as control freaks with no time for anything that doesn’t drive the schedule is not only inaccurate but may even be dangerous.


The APM define Project Management as:

“the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.

A key factor that distinguishes project management from just ‘management’ is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Because of this a project professional needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, and certainly people management skills and good business awareness.”

The Project Manager reports to a Project Board, which might report into a Programme Board. PRINCE2 has

  • The Seven Principles
  • The Seven Themes
  • The Seven Processes

It has all the makings of respectability, conformance, control, working in a structured environment. Nothing too radical. If it goes outside of tolerance, we need to seek ad hoc direction.

Yet look behind this at the reality of what we are trying to achieve. The purpose is to bring about change, to shake up the system, to create a new world, to question authority, hierarchies, processes, people.

In the table below is a mapping of of Anarchism, Punk Rock, Punk Politics with Project Management. They are the same thing, just different words.

As project professionals we have the veneer of respectability. Yet are we in reality professional agitators, troublemakers, anarchists and revolutionaries stirring up trouble to bring about change?

Anarchism Project Management
Anti-authoritarianism: Anti-authoritarians usually believe in full equality before the law and strong civil liberties. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with anarchism, an ideology which entails opposing authority or hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations, including the state system (Reference) Project management encourages a diversity of opinion, the right of individuals to make their point during debate, being inclusive of stakeholders views and thoughts. Hierarchical authority is replaced by a matrix structure including the use of meritocracy.
Anti-establishment views: An anti-establishment view or belief is one which stands in opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a society (Reference) Project management questions the established views and beliefs. Project delivery may require fundamental change in an organisation and the political structure.
Consensus Democracy: Consensus democracy … is characterized by a decision-making structure which involves and takes into account as broad a range of opinions as possible… (Reference) Stakeholders are identified, consulted and informed.
Direct action: Direct action occurs when a group takes an action which is intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue Project management involves the setting up of a temporary organisation, the Project, whose role is to take direct action in bringing about change, highlight issues, and demonstrate alternative solutions.
DIY Ethic: The abbreviation DIY is also widely used in the military as a way to teach commanders or other types of units to take responsibility, so that they’d be able to do things themselves just as a preparation for their own future. Projects tend to have finite resources. Project Managers have to be able to make do with what they have available, be resourceful and at times ‘roll up their sleeves’ to do the work.
Freethought: Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, or other dogmas (Reference) Projects encourage freethought. The open sharing of ideas. Design work brings together disparate views. Conclusions are based on reasoning out sound argument, observing events and logical analysis
Not selling out: In political movements a “sellout” is a person or group claiming to adhere to one ideology, only to follow these claims up with actions contradicting them, such as a revolutionary group claiming to fight for a particular cause, but failing to continue this upon obtaining power (Reference) Project management encourages openness of thinking, to look for an optimal answer, not being dogmatic about staying with a singular approach. The end state will be different from the starting point. To return to the status quo is not an option
Question authority… is intended to encourage people to avoid fallacious appeals to authority (Reference) Project management involves the questioning of authority, the use of dictatorial approaches is a failing from leaders.
Social Insertion: Social insertion consists simply of building a base for anarchist ideas through involvement at rank and file level over time in workplace and community organizations and struggles Project management actively encourages the participation of a wider community. Project team members are encouraged to go out and promote the benefits of their project, to sell the message that it is the right thing to do.

John Chapman, MIoD, MAPM, FISM, BSc (Hons)
Programme Director, TouchstoneFMS Ltd

Read John’s second post – The Chief Provocation Officer

Read John’s third post – Fight Director or Peacemaker

Read John’s fourth post – The Flight Safety Announcement

Read John’s final post – The Head of the Disciplinary Committtee

About TouchstoneFMS

Touchstone FMS Ltd is a leading business systems and IT consultancy specialising in the delivery of Financial ERP, Business Intelligence and Procurement software solutions; ongoing support and managed services, on premise and in the cloud. Based in London, with customers all over the UK and Channel Islands, we work with leading software authors to ensure our customers have the best solutions for their business. Our emphasis is on building partnerships, supporting customers through their digital transformation journey and long into the future.

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John's bookJohn’s latest book ‘Projects are Not a Walk in the Park: 30 Ideas in Creativity, Drive and Determination’ has just been published