Getting It Done PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN ACTION
We now live in the Cancer Moonshot era. This audacious global initiative, launched by the U.S. government this year, is a battle cry to win the war
on cancer, allowing it to be managed like any other
disease. Specifically, the US$1 billion program aims
to make a decade of advances in just five years.
I believe the analogy to sending a man to the moon
is not overstated. Part of the challenge is that no individual sector can cure cancer. Instead, solutions will
be found where biomedical research, data science, IT
and project management all intersect. Project managers, however, are generally unaccustomed to managing across these disciplines. Instead, they often assign
team members to work within their area of expertise
and distill complex requirements into work streams
that separate tasks, deliverables and labor.
To achieve the Cancer Moonshot, we will need
to change how we manage cancer research projects.
The future of research will require interdisciplinary
project management (IPM). IPM can better manage
the traffic at the intersection of disciplines, improving
how teams organize, communicate and collaborate
to achieve cancer breakthroughs.
A TEAM OF EXPERTS
One recent program I am familiar with sought
to connect cancer research teams and use shared
infrastructure and software to promote data collection, analysis and sharing. However, work was
conducted in managerial and functional isolation,
rather than with IPM, and there was little effort to
understand the needs of the broader cancer community. The functionally aligned program leadership provided unrealistic timelines and schedules,
which impacted cost, risk and resource management. The software and infrastructure developed
was highly unstable, and most of the cancer centers were unable or unwilling to use the tools.
The program was terminated. Although a few of
the tools have survived, mostly what remains is a
lesson in the perils of functional management and
a missed opportunity for IPM.
The solution is not for organizations to simply
will IPM into existence or rename their existing
approaches. At initiation, team members usually
switch between asserting the primacy of their own
field and being passive when they feel inexpert,
waiting for their turn to speak. Instead, the project
team has to serve as the engine for an interdisci-
A Cure for
Conquering the disease will require interdisciplinary project management.
By Andrew Ritcheson, PMP