Tailoring management approach to project characteristics

One size does not fit all

Not in clothing (I am tall so I feel this first hand), nor  in managing projects. Tailoring is required, whether for a high level decision such as selecting which framework a project-based organization will use, or for details, such as how to apply a standard technique on a specific project at a specific time. You must tune your application of project management techniques to a project’s characteristics. A simple process and light weight tools may be all you need for a routine, small project. Anything more would drown the poor project. On the other hand, you may need a much bigger investment in project management for projects that are high in complexity or newness.

Important factors for tailoring

Tailoring is easier said than done. What factors are important? Dr. Aaron Shenhar and Warren McFarlan have independently proposed models for this. I combine their ideas in the diagram. Projects get harder as each dimension increases, and they require different approaches and solutions. Consider the following factors at the beginning of a project when deciding on your approach to managing it.

  1. Complexity (increasing dependencies, cross-functionality, ambiguity, uncertainty, or size)
  2. Degree of technical novelty (increasing use of domain content – not necessarily bits and bytes – that is new to the project team)
  3. Three secondary factors can also be important
    • Pace of project (how tight is the schedule?)
    • Degree of structure (how much the approach to a project is already well defined, such as planning a derivative, vs. a blank sheet of paper)
    • Newness to users (how much change and disruption the project will cause to the people who use its deliverables)
Key factors: newness, uncertainty, structure, pace, and complexity

Key Factors for Tailoring Management Approach

Posted in Management, Projects.

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