Dealing with Project Supply Networks

Be a Connective Leader


Project Business Management


By Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany


“Like it or not; commands are out, negotiations are in.”
Jean Lipman-Blumen


Project Business Management brings together project management skills and business skills for the kind of projects that dominate today’s reality: Projects extending over corporate borders.

An aspect of both skills are leadership requirements that do no more stop at the boundaries of an organization but extend into other organizations, including clients and contractors. The ability to apply the achieving styles of the Connective Leadership Model often decide on the project success of these projects and also on the business success of the companies involved.


Leadership Requirements in Project Business Management

Some readers may have followed my previous articles on Project Business Management. In these articles, I describe various aspects of the art of doing project management in an environment characterized by contractual relationships between sellers and buyers, contractors and customers and other forms of business partners[1]. This series of articles follows a path from the outside, the organizations involved and the interfaces between them, to the core of the Project Business Manager discipline, from the technicalities and legal matters to the question what actually constitutes professionalism when projects span across corporations.

It began with a discussion of Situational Project Management (SitPM)[2] and a recommendation of an open typology of projects to prepare for the uniqueness and variability of the different projects along a major number of dimensions. Among these dimensions were those of predictable vs. exploratory projects, mark-1 vs. mark-n projects and many more.

One of these typological dimensions  was the dichotomy of internal projects, which are in essence costs centers, and customer projects, which are profit centers for the contractor company and opportunities to tap contractors’ assets and turn them into project resources for a customer organization. Contractors can constitute complex supply networks with many companies involved, including prime contractors and subcontractors over a number of tiers.

Figure 1: A simple two-tier project supply network (PSN) with a customer and five contractors

Figure 1 depicts a simple network with one ustomer and five contractors involved over two tiers. Each company has its own business interests, and getting to work together as one team dedicated to a common “Mission Success First” goal is a difficult task, whose mastership will make the project succeed or fail.

Discussing business aspects of projects under contract on both sides, customers and contractors, the articles led to questions of professionalism and qualification of project managers, who manage not only a project but a business relationship with customers, contractors or both, and as Figure 1 shows, the number of interfaces between the companies can grow rapidly.[3]

In this article, I intend to build a bridge to work that has been done since the 1990s by Jean Lipman-Blumen[4] under the flag of “Connective Leadership”.[5] Lipman-Blumen postulates that leaders have passed through two historical stages and are now entering a third one. Figure 2 describes, how leadership and also project management evolved and still evolve along these stages:


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Oliver Lehmann, author of the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016. See author profile below.

How to cite this article: Lehmann, O. (2018). Dealing with Project Supply Networks (PSNs), Be a Connective Leader, PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue VII – July.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pmwj72-Jul2018-Lehmann-Connective-Leadership-in-Project-Supply-Networks.pdf

About the Author

Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany




Oliver F. Lehmann, MSc., PMP, is a project management author, consultant, speaker and teacher. He studied Linguistics, Literature and History at the University of Stuttgart and Project Management at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he holds a Master of Science Degree. Oliver has trained thousands of project managers in Europe, USA and Asia in methodological project management with a focus on certification preparation. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Munich.

He has been a member and volunteer at PMI, the Project Management Institute, since 1998, and served five years as the President of the PMI Southern Germany Chapter until April 2018. Between 2004 and 2006, he contributed to PMI’s PM Network magazine, for which he provided a monthly editorial on page 1 called “Launch”, analyzing troubled projects around the world.

Oliver believes in three driving forces for personal improvement in project management: formal learning, experience and observations. He resides in Munich, Bavaria, Germany and can be contacted at [email protected].

Oliver Lehmann is the author of the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016.

To view other works by Oliver Lehmann, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/oliver-f-lehmann/


[1] A chronological list of all articles in PM World Journal can be found at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/oliver-f-lehmann

[2] (Lehmann, 2016)

[3] (Lehmann, 2018)

[4] Her profile can be found at the Drucker School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University ( (Drucker School of Management, n.d.)

[5] (Lipman-Blumen, 2000)