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Part 1. Project Management Paradox: "Doing the right things" or "doing things right"?

IPMA South Africa, Part 1. Project Management Paradox: "Doing the right things" or "doing things right"?

Introduction: Navigating the Project Management Paradox

In the world of project management, professionals often grapple with a fundamental question: should we focus on "doing the right things" or "doing things right"? This seemingly simple query carries profound implications for the success and strategic alignment of organisational efforts. Based on the insights from Falkheimer, Heide, Simonsson, Zerfass, and Verhoeven (2016, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences Amsterdam School of Communication Research) we delve into the complexities and paradoxes that communication professionals face in their quest to balance strategic objectives with operational excellence.

Doing the Right Things: Strategic Focus

The primary aim of corporate communication is to contribute to the core drivers of success and prepare for an uncertain future. This involves "doing the right things," which means aligning communication efforts with the overall strategic goals of the organisation. Communication professionals are tasked with facilitating strategy work, ensuring that their actions support long-term objectives rather than just immediate needs. However, this strategic focus is not without its challenges. The concept of "doing the right things" is inherently complex and multifaceted, requiring a deep understanding of the organisation's vision and the ability to translate it into measurable communication goals.

Doing Things Right: Operational Excellence

On the other hand, "doing things right" emphasises the importance of executing tasks with precision and effectiveness. This includes producing convincing texts, managing communication channels efficiently, and ensuring that all efforts are aligned with best practices and standards. While operational excellence is crucial, it should not overshadow the strategic dimension. Communication professionals who focus solely on "doing things right" risk being seen as mere technicians rather than strategic facilitators. The key is to balance both aspects, integrating high-quality execution with strategic foresight.

Organisational Stupidity: The Risk of Narrow Focus

An excessive focus on managerial logic and control can lead to what is termed "organisational stupidity." This concept refers to a lack of reflexivity and substantive reasoning within organisations, where employees operate within a narrow and "safe" terrain, avoiding doubt and critical reflection. While this can provide a sense of certainty and smooth functioning, it also stifles innovation and critical thinking. Communication professionals must be wary of falling into this trap, ensuring that their strategic and operational efforts do not lead to a superficial adherence to managerial norms at the expense of meaningful dialogue and adaptability.

Conclusion: Embracing Multi-Dimensional Rationality

To navigate this paradox effectively, communication professionals must embrace a multi-dimensional rationality. This involves recognising and managing the inherent complexities and ambiguities of organisational life. By understanding and addressing the paradoxes between managerialism and professionalism, as well as between strategic and operational roles, communication professionals can enhance their contributions to their organisations. This balanced approach enables them to focus on both "doing the right things" and "doing things right," ultimately driving both strategic success and operational excellence. Original content Authors:

J. Falkheimer, M. Heide, C. Simonsson, A. Zerfass and P. Verhoeven

Part 1. Project Management Paradox: "Doing the right things" or "doing things right"?Part 1. Project Management Paradox: "Doing the right things" or "doing things right"?


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