Managing project contexts

SERIES ARTICLE

Series on project integration, interfaces and context management
Article 3 of 3

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


 BACKGROUND

This series of three articles is concerned with project integration. The first article (Stretton 2016h) was essentially an overview of the literature on project integration per se. In spite of its perceived importance to project management, materials specific to the subject are somewhat scarce, fragmented, and disparate, and do not provide good insights about the essential elements of project integration.

Many authors strongly associate project integration with project interfaces and their management, which was the subject of the second article (Stretton 2016i). Some thirty-odd project interfaces were identified, and broadly classified and accumulated into a table, which could be seen as a basic checklist for project managers who are establishing and/or managing this component of project integration. It also provided a listing of project contexts which are relevant to this third article.

The first article also noted that some of the differing broad viewpoints on project integration may be due to the fact that project management knowledge is not context free. Shenhar & Dvir’s NTCP model, and its four ‘dimensions’ and component ‘types’ were briefly discussed. The authors recommend a wide range of different integration approaches for each ‘dimension’ and component type. Although these are not contexts in their own right, they are largely determined by contextual factors in the project’s environment. Therefore the recommended integration approaches are indirectly relevant to this final article on project contexts and their management.

INTRODUCTION

As Morris 2013 has noted, project management knowledge is not context free. Also, of course, in practice all projects have their own particular contexts. As Morris 2013:60 also observes, there is “…a need to manage, or influence, in some way the project ‘externalities” – its context”.

In spite of its ubiquitous nature, the management of project contexts as a topic in its own right receives little attention in project management standards and guidelines. There are few guides that emphasise influencing context, let alone guidelines on how to go about it.

As Morris 2013:282 says, speaking of project management standards and guidelines,

…..contextualisation…[is] left in the hands of practitioners, which is reasonable, but with little guidance on how to do this, which is not.

Perhaps one of the problems is that, judging from Table 3-1 following, the possible types of project contexts are so numerous and varied that it is hardly surprising that there is so little direct overall guidance in the literature on how to manage them.

In the following, we will look at project context management as a topic in its own right, and particularly at an approach developed by Morris 2013, who has identified seven variables which influence project contexts. We will look at how these relate to a basic project life cycle, how important they are in the early project initiation phases, and thence how important it is to have project management involved ASAP.

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To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), 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 accepting 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

pmwj34-May2015-Stretton-PHOTO
Alan Stretton, PhD

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

flag-australia

 


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). Alan 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 [email protected].

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

 

 

Project Interfaces and their management

SERIES ARTICLE

Series on project integration, interfaces and context management

Article 2 of 3

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


INTRODUCTION

This series of three articles is concerned with project integration. The first article (Stretton 2016h) was essentially an overview of the literature on project integration per se. In spite of its perceived importance to project management, materials specific to the subject are somewhat scarce, fragmented, and disparate, and do not provide good insights about the essential elements of project integration.

The first article noted that many authors strongly associate project integration with project interfaces and their management, and signalled that this second article will look at the rather modest materials on project interface management in more detail (which hopefully may provide further insights about project integration at large). It will be found that different authors have different perceptions of the nature of project interfaces, and of which they see as the important ones. Over thirty project interfaces are identified, and are broadly classified and accumulated into a table. This could be seen as a basic checklist for project managers who are establishing and/or managing this component of project integration. It also provides a listing of project contexts which are relevant to the third article of this series.

LINKS BETWEEN PROJECT INTEGRATION AND PROJECT INTERFACE MGT

In the first article it was pointed out that many writers link project integration with project interface management. For example, Stuckenbruck 1988 said:

Project managers carry out their function of project integration primarily by carefully managing all of the many diverse interfaces within their projects.

Struen 2011 also links the two very directly:

Need for integration of project processes is evident when interfaces must be established for the processes to interact.

This second article looks in more detail at project interfaces and their management.

THE NATURE OF PROJECT INTERFACES

In the following I draw heavily on just a few authors who appear to have made the biggest contributions in this area.

Healy 1997

Healy 1997:268 describes project interfaces rather succinctly as follows.

An interface is a boundary where an interdependency exists across that boundary and where responsibility for the interdependency changes across that boundary.

Healy goes on to say (p.269) that

Interfaces arise because work is broken down into parts and each of the parts is carried out by or executed by different people or organisations. The definition of the parts may depend on technology, on economics, on geography or a host of other factors. …. The project manager can also impose interfaces to help in the management of the project. …..

No matter how the work is divided up, there is always the problem of linking the various parts and so a need for interface management.

Healy 1997:Ch 12 effectively has the following three broad categories of interfaces.

  • Interfacing the client
  • Maintaining external interfaces
  • Managing internal interfaces

More…

To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), 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 accepting 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

pmwj34-May2015-Stretton-PHOTO
Alan Stretton, PhD

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

flag-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. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan 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 [email protected].

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

 

 

Project Integration

SERIES ARTICLE

Series on project integration, interfaces and context management
Article 1 of 3

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


INTRODUCTION

This series of three articles is concerned with project integration. This first article is essentially an overview of what the literature has to say about project integration per se. The second article will discuss the management of project interfaces, which is strongly associated with project integration. The third article will discuss project contexts and their management, which are also strongly associated with both project integration and project interface management.

This article first confirms that project integration is regarded by many (if not most) project management writers and practitioners as the primary function of project management. However, in spite of its perceived importance, the project management literature does not have many materials which specifically focus on this topic.

Moreover, we find that the materials that do exist vary rather substantially – and sometimes very substantially – in their approaches and/or contents, and therefore do not provide good insights about the essential elements of project integration. However, as noted above, the literature has more material on the closely associated management of project interfaces, which may help throw further light on integration. This will be discussed in more detail in the second article of this series.

After noting that some of the above differing broad viewpoints on project integration may be due to the fact that project management knowledge is not context free, we look at materials on integration from Shenhar & Dvir 2007 that are indirectly linked to project contexts. Their NTCP model has a wide range of different integration approaches which are recommended as appropriate to four project ‘dimensions’, and component ‘types’, whose assignments are largely determined by contextual factors in the project’s environment. The third article of this series will discuss the management of project contexts in more detail.

THE NATURE OF INTEGRATION       

Integration is a word in common usage, and with a well understood meaning. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines integration as

The making up or composition of the whole by adding together or combining separate parts; combination into a whole.

Integration in an organisational context

The management role at large was long ago defined in an integrative context, as for example by Allen 1962 (albeit a little indirectly), as follows:

….we can define a manager as someone who is so placed organizationally that only he has the perspective, objectivity, and balance with respect to the sometimes conflicting needs of his subordinates.

At a more detailed level, Morris 1988 first approaches the broad subject of integration from a systems perspective. His initial concerns are with systems and sub system boundaries and interfaces, which he discusses quite extensively. He moves on to discuss degrees of differentiation between subsystems, followed by considerations of interdependencies between subsystems, from which he develops the following discussion on integration in a broad organisational context.

Integration becomes important when the degree of organisational interdependence becomes significant. Research has shown that tighter organisational integration is necessary when

More…

To read entire article (click here)

 

Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), 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 accepting 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

141215-pmwj30-new-stretton-PHOTO
Alan Stretton, PhD

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

flag-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.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan 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 [email protected].

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