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The $26 Million Dollar Epiphany by Lee Lambert

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This weeks blog post is written by our friend Lee R. Lambert. Lee is a PMI Fellow and has established the standard against which educators and practitioners in the field of Project Management are measured. In 1981 he was invited to join the team that created the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Program. Learn more about Lee and his impact on the field of project management at the end of his blog post.

Project Management, Product Management it’s all basically the same thing, right?

Well, I’m embarrassed to admit that I have actually considered this to be true for years. I always practiced what I called “womb to tomb” project management, which meant that a project manager had to consider and manage “everything” that needed to be done to assure that the project was a success.

The challenge, it turns out, was I never really understood exactly what “everything” includes. I managed a medical diagnostics project ($26 million) but my primary focus was on Cost, Schedule, and Quality – as a project management professionals should be!

In retrospect, I realize I didn’t give much thought to the myriad of “other” critical activities that would ultimately decide whether my project was truly a complete success. Things like, sponsor awareness, market analysis and marketing, logistics, user interaction and involvement, pricing, life expectancy, government agency approvals, insurance acceptance/coverage, competitive conditions, etc.  After all, these were not the job of the project manager!

Then I met Greg Geracie.

Given my “expertise” in project management, he recruited me to contribute to his effort to publish a Product Management Body of Knowledge Standard document and the rest is history. Through my research and the creation of material to support the collaboration and cooperation of two roles – project management and product management – I had an epiphany: traditional project management, as I had known it for four decades, was clearly NOT the same as Product Management.

Now I recognize why my medical diagnostics project had encountered so many difficult challenges. At that time I was managing the project, but nobody was actually managing the product. Had I comprehended then what I know now the importance of these two distinctly different, but frighteningly similar roles, would have been clear and my time could have been much more productively spent focusing on managing the Project, while someone with a much more holistic view would have been managing the Product and all the nuances associated with its successful completion.

Both roles exist. Both roles have distinct responsibilities and both roles add substantial value enroute to delivering SUCCESSFUL outputs. BUT, it’s my opinion that it’s time to recognize the importance of these two roles and to admit that they exist and that they must establish and maintain carefully orchestrated communication and collaboration processes throughout the distinct but overlapping project and product management life cycles.

The upcoming publication of a Product Management Body of Knowledge will finally enable people to understand these two roles and how they must coexist to assure a steady stream of useful and profitable products continue to find their way to the market.

Lee is a Past President  Central Ohio PMI. Lee authored two books and more than 30 professional articles/whitepapers. He is also PMI SME for the EVMS Practice Guide and the Project Estimating Practice Guide. Educated in Engineering Design at Utah Technical College. He’s a holder of a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University. As the creator of the “Stealth Learning” concept, no other educator/speaker can contend with his uncanny technical knowledge, unique material content and refreshingly entertaining delivery. Lee takes the saying; “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” to the next level as he continues to “make a difference” in his chosen field. 

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