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Project Management in a Variety of Contexts

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Some representations of how projects and/or their management related to a variety of contexts

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia

 


 INTRODUCTION

Many of the articles I have written for this journal in the past few years have been concerned, in one way or another, with encouraging project people to see project management in a variety of broader contexts. My reasons for doing so have been primarily to encourage moves away from various forms of myopia that tend to persist in some sectors in the project management community. Another is that putting things in broader and different contexts is one of my ways of trying to get new insights into the discipline – and I assume, rightly or wrongly, that this may also apply for some other people.

This article presents several different ways in which projects and their management have been represented, as now summarised. We move progressively from rather particular representations to increasingly generalised ones.

  • We start with projects being represented as a particular type of work processing, within a context of multiple modes of work effort, diversity in processing, and differences in batch sizes.
  • We then move on to a representation of projects as being one of many types of teams which can operate in organizations, each with differing purposes, time dimensions, and position in the organizational structure.
  • The next level of generality comprises representations in which project management is seen as going beyond execution-only and output-focused activities, by contributing to broader ends, including realisation of business outcomes, and achievement of organisational strategic objectives.
  • We then move to a different type of generality, which represents project management as being not only concerned with “traditional” contexts of relatively low levels of uncertainty, complexity, or pace, but also as embracing both medium and high levels of these types of dimensions.
  • Finally, at a very broad level of generalisation, project management can be seen not only in the context of being a distinctive discipline in its own right, but also as an integral component of broader management contexts.

I believe the first two representations are new to the project management literature. The others have been written about previously, including in some of my own articles in this journal.

PROJECTS SEEN AS A PARTICULAR TYPE OF WORK PROCESSING

From time to time we have seen some rather basic distinctions made about types of work typically undertaken in general management versus project management contexts. For example, Turner 1999 associated general management with routine types of work, and project management with unique work types.

We will now look briefly at a work-related model which is more detailed than most.

Webster’s “Process Matrix” model

Francis Webster developed quite a detailed model of various different types of work and means of processing these, which he first showed me in 1999. I have retained a copy of his model, but not of any of his supporting detail. He tells me he has not published his work, but has given me permission to use his model (Webster 2016).

Webster’s model, which he called a “Process Matrix”, is shown (in adapted form) in Figure 1. It classifies projects as one of five modes of organising work effort on one axis. The model also has an axis with four levels of diversity in work processing, and a third axis that nominates various batch sizes.

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Editor’s note: Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), is a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still tackling some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.



About the Author


Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)

 


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. 

Alan has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). He was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 170 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.