In Step with Projects

In Pace with Progress

Drive Realization of Controllable Innovation via Project Management

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Author: Ding Ronggui     Translator: Yu Yanjuan (English name: Spring)     Source: PMR
Preface of PMR Issue 2, 2020

Different from innovation in fundamental theory or viewpoints, enterprise innovation is carried out by means of projects involving a number of stakeholders and taking time and pace to deliver products or operational mode that meets the needs of market. There is no doubt about the importance of innovation. However, if we can't increase the controllability of innovation, their positive impact on enterprises will be greatly reduced. It is said that Edison made over 6000 attempts before inventing light bulbs. The spirit is admirable, but high enthusiasm and persistent innovation spirit is not enough for an enterprise to gain a competitive edge. Enterprise innovation needs to closely coordinate multiple links such as creativity, R&D, component procurement, product release, etc., which takes time and coordination in rhythm. Innovation projects differ from traditional projects that strictly define goals, scope, budget and schedule. Innovation projects are projects characterized by VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous). To improve the controllable degree of innovation is a major challenge faced by project management and it can reflect the important value of project management.

The logic of innovation and management is different. For innovation, we need to question, challenge, break rules, encourage personality and tolerate failure while for management, we focus on execution, efficiency, coordination and successful delivery. Though the two seems to conflict in logic, we need both to achieve innovation fruits. It is hard for an individual to have and follow both the two logics to do things. Therefore, management is both a discipline of science and art. 

Among projects that need controllability, the national defense project is the most representative scientific and technological innovation project while the film project belongs to the most representative artistic innovation project. The former involves the most intense national security competition, while the latter involves the time-critical market competition. From these two types of projects, we can find common innovative project management methods.

Large-scale projects such as China's "two bombs and one satellite" adopt management methods named "Two Lines" and "Three Combinations", which is an effective innovation project management method. The so-called "Two Lines" refer respectively to the scientific and technological innovation line with the chief engineer as the representative and the administrative management line with the commander-in-chief as the representative. The former is responsible for the productivity needed by innovation, and the latter is in charge of the production relations needed by innovation. The so-called "Three Combinations" is a way of coordination among leading administrators, scientific researchers and operating workers. A top film work is also the innovation management fruit of "Two Lines" and "Three Combinations", where the film director represents the art line, the producer represents the management line and "Three Combinations" refer to the coordination among the film producer, the director and the working staff.  

The control loss or failure in innovation mostly originates from the imbalance of the "Two Lines" and "Three Combinations". It is a common practice in enterprises to rely on the spontaneous management of scientific research talents, so-called "respect for talents", but this practice actually ignores the value of management. Similarly, in film projects, people tend to focus on the role of stars without realizing the cooperation between producers and directors. In fact, the management ability of a technological genius may not be as good as that of street peddlers, and the market operation ability of a big director may not be as good as that of an Internet star. It should be noted that professional competence in science or art is not equal to the management ability.

For the benefit of innovation competence and innovation fruits, "de-administration" is emphasized. The term "de-administration" refers to getting rid of bureaucratic management not taking into account of scientific principles, not respecting talents, and overemphasizing power and status, which cannot be equated with scientific management. In other words, "de-administration" doesn’t mean "de-management". On the contrary, to improve the controllability of innovation, we need to vigorously improve management capability both at the national level and at the enterprise level, and innovation project management will play a leading role in it.

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