This paper was originally published as The Strategy of Running Temporary Projects, Innovation, 1971. Although published over thirty years ago, we believe that its perceptive insights are just as valid today.

Thanks to Bob Youker, World Bank (Retired), for bringing this paper to our attention. The paper has since been edited for web presentation, Editor

Copyright: Lawrence Bennigson, MA, 02108. Email: lbennigson@hbs.ed.
Published here August 2004.

PART 1 | Introduction | Project Integration
The Need for Visibility | Personal and Professional Security
Tradeoffs are the Hallmark of the Strategic Approach
Success Criteria for Our Air Pollution Abatement Program 
Selection of Key Management Positions | In Summary ...

Success Criteria for Our Air Pollution Abatement Program

Four Task Criteria

What task criteria are of strategic importance? Timeliness must be important if results are to be useful for the upcoming mayoral election. A premium will be placed on preventing, or detecting early, any possible delays in schedule. Cost may not be a critical factor providing that demonstration funds can be obtained, and this is likely. Performance is important since garbage in the streets would be a hot political issue; therefore design and implementation of the alternative to burning must be done well.

It is imperative that the customer be satisfied. Even if the pollution abatement objective is not met it would be nice to have satisfied citizens; on the other hand, if the pollution objective is met and the citizens still unsatisfied, the battle will have been won but the war lost. Obtaining pollution abatement follow-on work is not a relevant objective here and the city administration sees no particular advantage in developing a cadre of pollution abatement experts, so follow-on and spin-off are not high-priority objectives. Finally, the success of this project will depend on citizens' changing their habits regarding the storage and handling of household refuse.

Five Management System Criteria

Now, which management system criteria will be important? Getting personal commitment of many different functionaries in different city departments will certainly be important. The skills and resources necessary to accomplish the program are distributed throughout the city organization; relationships will also have to be built and maintained with the community and with federal funding sources. Consequently effective integration will be important. The mayor has determined that this will be a one-shot project and when it is completed, the management system should terminate. Visibility of schedule and performance information will be important. Satisfying security needs will be important in this parent environment.


These four criteria for task completion and five criteria for management system success represent nine strategic goals to guide all tactical decisions in the design of a management approach to the program. Each such tactical decision, each selection of a management tool, can be examined in light of its strategic usefulness and its joint impact with other components of the CPMS on the strategic needs.

Each component of the management system will be selected because, of the tactical alternatives available, it does the best job of meeting strategic criteria and is consistent with other selected elements. Few alternatives will be totally attractive; tradeoffs will have to be made. In most cases several criteria and constraints will be satisfied with each individual design decision.

A basic organizational approach must be selected: either projectized, with all people on the project in one organizational unit; matrix, with people reporting to both project manager and functional manager; or functional, with people remaining strictly in their permanent organizational positions. Strengths and weaknesses of each basic alternative can be evaluated in light of the relevant success criteria. A point-by-point enumeration of each evaluation would require at least another article, so I'll use the following table to illustrate a set of judgments I would make for this facet of the air pollution project.

Effects of Organizational Alternatives on Success Criteria
  Projectized Matrix Functional
Time High Medium Low
Performance Low Medium High
Satisfaction Low High High
Change High Medium Low
Commitment High Medium Low
Integration High Medium Low
Termination Low Medium High
Visibility High Medium Low
Security Low Medium High

Suppose the highest priorities are placed on the long-range criteria of avoiding raising security concerns in the ranks of city workers, avoiding the creation of another small empire, and avoiding going against the grain of the city's current management milieu. The functional approach meets these objectives and constraints and is selected. Almost all personnel involved in the program will remain in their job positions in city departments.

The tradeoffs being made here are clear. This decision increases the difficulty of meeting time and change objectives and of achieving commitment, integration, and visibility of status information. Each of these criteria that have been sacrificed now represent specific problems to be solved with remaining design decisions.

Tradeoffs are the Hallmark of the Strategic Approach  Tradeoffs are the Hallmark of the Strategic Approach

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