New Year's Message from the IAPM President

Four people in a New Year's Eve scene at night, holding golden balloons in the shape of 2022.
Exactly one year ago, at the beginning of 2021, there were, as usual, many forecasts and wishes on the occasion of the New Year. One of the main topics was undoubtedly Covid-19. One of the most important forecasts was that the virus could hopefully disappear soon through successful vaccination campaigns and through the possible contagion. Thus, normal life could return. Well, that was the plan. This hope was still valid even at the end of the summer holiday period, in October the state of emergency in Germany was supposed to end. As we know today at the beginning of 2022, all these visions have been shattered. Not only because not enough vaccinations could be administered (for whichever reasons), but also because new mutations have wiped out all projections. In my opinion, this crisis is basically nothing more than a project, admittedly a very large one! 

But can a plan-driven approach really be appropriate for this project "combating the pandemic"? In many projects today, it must be considered whether plan orientation alone is really the right approach. If we take a look at the origin of the pandemic, we realise that it is obviously a natural phenomenon. Viruses do not stick to plans, and it is indisputable that we are dealing with a highly reactive organism that can only be dealt with empirically. An empirical approach means proceeding iteratively, incrementally and experience-driven. Above all, it means not wanting to stick to rigid plans and thinking that make long-term statements can be made. And, I can hear the outcry of the critics already, it also means accepting futile attempts, failures and also defeats!

Which leads us to the question that concerns many projects: To what extent should it be planned, and to what extent should it be agile? If one is prepared to proceed in an open-ended way, there is another important question: To what extent are those involved, i.e. the stakeholders of the project, able and willing to support this open-ended approach? The stakeholder environment of the Covid crisis could not be more heterogeneous: states, politicians, political parties, vaccination commissions, the press and many more. Just looking at this environment should trigger the realisation that any statement that conveys predictability and a singular point of view can only be held for a very short time and will fall back on the one who makes it.

In many companies, according to the experience of our IAPM trainers and consultants, this experience in classic-agile projects, i.e. in the hybrid environment, is slowly gaining acceptance on a broad front. I really think, what companies can accomplish, politics, i.e. all of us, should also be able to do. My wish for 2022: More patience, mindfulness, humility towards the forces of nature and openness for the results of our actions. And, above all, the necessary common recognition for those who sacrifice all their strength daily to ensure that we get a grip on this project in the long term.

May we all have hope, courage, health and success in 2022!

Dr Hans Stromeyer
Author: Dr Hans Stromeyer

Keywords: Project management, Commentary

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