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Project management and modern warfare

Greg McMahon
March 15, 2012

Project management as a discipline may have had its origins in war. Certainly, its early development occurred during World War II, fast-tracking General Macarthur’s island hopping advance towards The Philippines.

Managers have long drawn concepts from the military in meeting business challenges, from marketing to leadership. Some project management concepts might assist the development of military doctrine for modern war. Non-military projects, too, can have well resourced and independent opposition, for example gaining entry to a market dominated by a competitor.

In troubleshooting for such projects, or when completing forensic reviews of failed projects of this type, it is important to separate such ‘redfield’ or red projects from the analytical methodologies that might be used with failed greenfield or brownfield projects; business equivalents to military concepts assist such reviews.

Developments to date in military doctrine appear most sophisticated at the conventional warfighting end of the Spectrum of Conflict models used by most defence forces. The doctrine at the ‘peace’ end of the spectrum appears less so.

Project management concepts, a ‘Project-space’ if you like, can accompany the Battle-space concepts in military doctrine, where integration and stakeholder management are required. Project-space refers to the programs of projects being undertaken in many conflicts to build or rebuild communities, against the interference of well resourced, active and determined opposition, including armed opposition.

A Warspace Model, incorporating both sets of Battle and Project notions, appears to have good potential for depicting the true character of each conflict in the Spectrum, and for capturing the primary differences between all conflicts.

How might project management concepts assist with the development of military doctrine for modern war?

Read more in the Project-Space: A new doctrine for warfare whitepaper.

Greg McMahon
Greg McMahon is the national director of Adair Leadership in Australia, delivering programs and training developed by leadership expert John Adair. McMahon has experience as a project leader, a manager, a senior manager and an executive in a wide variety of fields ranging from civil engineering design and construction, to marketing, training, research and development. He also covers consultancy and regulatory services, industrial relations, defence services, corporate support (policy and planning) and information services.
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