The Big Reverse: Politics, Anti-leadership and the Looming Threat to Professionalism – and Welcome to the February 2017 Edition of the PM World Journal
Addison, Texas, USA
Welcome to the February 2017 edition of the PM World Journal (PMWJ). This 55th edition truly reflects the international nature of this publication; 39 original articles, papers and other works by 47 different authors in 19 different countries are included this month. News articles about projects and project management around the world are also included. Since the primary mission of this journal is to support the global sharing of knowledge, please share this month’s edition with others in your network, wherever in the world they may be.
Since last August, on the recommendation of several respected advisors, I have been using this opportunity to mention new trends or important issues that I see as journal editor. Following the 2016 presidential election in the United States, the topic of my short December editorial was the potential impact on programs, projects, industries and organizations of “disruptive political change”. It was a topic that I have written about before and, I think, was relatively well received; at least I heard from a few people (see the letter to the editor from Oliver Lehmann in Germany this month, for example.)
The December editorial focused on the changes in policies that frequently accompany political changes, policies that affect funding, regulations and other actions that can impact programs and projects. That impact is now being felt in the United States as the president has already signed executive orders benefiting large corporations, big banks, the oil and gas industry and Wall Street; science, environmental protection, national parks, foreign trade (and relations) and other industries may be negatively affected. But those changes and impacts are not unexpected. If new policies, laws and regulations are enacted in fair and reasonable ways, there may actually be some positive results.
However, after only a few weeks, it has become clear to me that there is another much bigger potential problem associated with the new administration. It has to do with the much publicized dawn of the “post-truth” era and the use of “alternative facts” by the president and his team – in other words, the apparent broad acceptance of dishonesty in leadership. I was advised not to “go political”, but this is just too important…
The Big Reverse: Politics, Anti-leadership and the Looming Threat to Professionalism
Politics as Context
Politics is a normal aspect of civilized society; like economics, it is part of the environmental context within which organizations, programs and projects operate. According the Oxford dictionary, Politics includes “The activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power” and “A particular set of political beliefs or principles”. The Oxford online definition also includes “Activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power.” 
Merriam-Webster (M-W) defines politics as 1. the art and science of government; the art and science concerned with guiding or influencing government policy; the art and science concerned with winning and holding control over a government; 2. political actions, practices or policies; 3. political affairs or business; 4. the political opinions or sympathies of a person; and 5. the total complex of relations between people living in society.  The M-W citation also states “Politics is a multifaceted word. It has a set of fairly specific meaning that are descriptive and nonjudgmental (such as ‘the art and science of government’ and ‘political principles’), but it can and often does carry a negative meaning closely related to these (‘political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices’), and it not uncommon for the word to have multiple related meaning that run the connotative gamut from good to bad.”
In other words, politics is a common and normal aspect of government – at the local, regional, state, national and international levels. Because government plays such an important role in most lives, of both individuals and organizations, their activities, administration and control are vitally important to many stakeholders. It is the control aspect that brings us to now, where political opinions and parties are deeply dividing the populations of many countries – especially in the United States and Western Europe. Politics has sharply divided the right from the left, the liberals from the conservatives, the Democrats from the Republicans.
Those divisions sometimes seem crazy. How can citizens of the same country or state argue and fight to such a degree that they express hatred for each other, they call each other “the enemy”, and representatives of each side or party oppose the other in congress en masse? This seems to be the situation in the USA now following the divisive 2016 presidential campaign and election. And now the administration seems to be making matters worse. Real and positive leadership is needed, but that’s not what I see.
So why does this matter to project managers and the PM profession? Because this political environment is where our programs, projects and project teams now exist! Because political control of governments can influence or dictate policies and actions that affect industries, organizations and projects (as we are already experiencing in America and UK)! Because political affiliations, principles and attitudes can affect organizations, teams, relationships, careers and lives (more on this below)! Politics and political conditions represent one of the most important aspects of “context” for us all. If you don’t believe this, please read on.
About the Author
Managing Editor, PMWJ
Managing Director, PMWL
David L. Pells is Managing Editor of the PM World Journal (http://www.pmworldjournal.net/) and Managing Director of the PM World Library (http://www.pmworldlibrary.net/). David is an internationally recognized leader in the field of professional project management with more than 35 years of experience on a variety of programs and projects, including engineering, construction, energy, defense, transit, technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from thousands to billions of dollars. He has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, serving on the board of directors of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) twice. He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world.
David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; Project Management Associates (PMA – India); and Russian Project Management Association. Since 2010 he is an honorary member of the Project Management Association of Nepal. From June 2006 until March 2012, he was the managing editor of PM World Today. He occasionally provides high level advisory services for major programs, global organizations and the U.S. federal government. David has a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in business from Idaho State University in the USA. He has published widely, spoken at conferences and events worldwide, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
To see other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/