Task force approaches to one-time projects are an increasingly familiar element of the business scene. So, many imaginative tactics have been devised for managing the temporary projects now proliferating in our "temporary society". But tactics without strategy can often result in a muddled project and a residue of unmet goals.
Every manager involved with a temporary, one-of-a-kind project or program must cope with a perplexing dilemma. The field of project management offers many techniques and approaches for managing projects; however, few guidelines exist for the overall design of temporary management systems, and the comprehensive analysis of project management system requirements is a forbidding task. This, I believe, is because the questions we usually ask about how to design such systems, and the answers we find, are too narrow in scope, too "tactical" in nature.
Certain questions are typically asked about project management Should PERT, CPM, or something else be used? How often should status reports he obtained? How should the project team be organized? Should there be a project manager? What type of information displays should be used? Considerable attention has been devoted to developing tactical solutions to these tactical management problems. Often the resulting management system is a hodgepodge of techniques that are neither mutually self-supporting nor suited to the overall goals of the project.
The tactical questions themselves are legitimate enough. But project management badly needs ways of strategically viewing, questioning, and analyzing the needs of a comprehensive project management system (CPMS) and finding alternative technical solutions. (I use CPMS here to refer to the entire collection of organization, planning and control tools and information systems used to conduct a complex, one-time task.)
With the growing emphasis on temporary organizations in our "temporary society", task force approaches to one-time projects are being applied in an increasing variety of areas. Though project management was once the domain of the construction industry and then defense-oriented R&D, it is now common in business and industry, government, health, and education. Since we seem to be entering an "age of project management", we need comprehensive ways of evaluating these CPMS experiences.
In this article I will present a framework for strategically approaching CPMS design, a method that increases the likelihood that important constraints, goals, and needs will not be overlooked.