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.

Introduction | Background | Managing the Project
Strategic Design of a Comprehensive Project Management System (CPMS)  
Important Areas to Consider | Standard Success Criteria
The System Can Be Evaluated Separately from the Task | End Game
Editor's Footnote  | PART 2

The End Game

Since a project must, at some point, come to an end, the management system for the project must also end. There are three ways in which a CPMS can make this transition: (1) out-and-out termination, (2) adoption into an ongoing permanent organization, or (3) becoming an autonomous, permanent entity.

Many system design decisions made early in the project's life cycle have a substantial influence on the ultimate ability of the project to make the transition. Therefore it is crucial that factors that will affect transition (at the end of the project) be considered in CPMS design (at the beginning of the project).

If outright termination is intended, it makes sense to staff key decision-making positions with people who will not depend on the existence of the project for livelihood or career development. This is particularly important in parent organizations where projects are not conducted as a way of life. Any design decisions that contribute to the development of dependent relationships between project people, or of non-project people on the project, can inhibit the ability of a project to terminate gracefully.

The design of information systems, selection of the organizational approach, establishment of reporting procedures, and distribution of authority for resource-allocation decisions are examples of system decisions that affect a project's termination capability. For instance, suppose we want a new-product concept investigated, the results fed to a development group, and the project disbanded. Then we might select a functional organizational approach with people assigned only part time to the project. We would probably have a project coordinator, strictly internal (within the project) reporting, and no external allocation of resources controlled by project people. These choices would facilitate "disintegration" of the CPMS.

Suppose, alternatively, company strategy calls for the new-product investigation group to become an ongoing part of the larger organization after the study is completed. It would then make sense to designate a project team and a project manager. We would also identify existing permanent work groups the project will eventually interface with and inform them regularly of progress, and we would create some dependency of existing departments on the project itself.

Finally, if the new-product study group is expected to ultimately become a new product division, senior executives with an eye on security would be better candidates for important decision-making positions than would younger people interested in short term experience for career development. To make the project as autonomous as possible, management might implement a combination of a projectized organization, internal control of resource allocation decisions, and few external reporting relationships.

To be continued in Part 2

The System Can Be Evaluated Separately from the Task  The System Can Be Evaluated
Separately from the Task

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