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 System Can Be Evaluated Separately from the Task

So far I have distinguished between the task to be done and the management system designed to get it done. There is also a difference between the success criteria for the task and the success criteria for the management system. The success of the system determines whether the task criteria for success will be met.

In my work with projects and project managers, I have found five ways in which the success of project management systems may be evaluated independently of the success of the task itself. These five measures, which apply regardless of project type, are:

  • Obtaining commitment
  • Achieving transition
  • Effecting integration,
  • Getting visibility, and
  • Providing security

With these criteria, management can evaluate project health even though it may be difficult to measure results against task objectives.

It is virtually a truism that commitment of people to a task is an important ingredient of success for any undertaking, be it project or routine. What's important with regard to project situations is that the work is only temporary. Because project work may represent only a small slice of all the work performed by an individual and may appear to be no different from his routine work, it may receive only routine rather than project priorities. In organizations where conducting projects is not a way of life, the entire social and management milieu will measure and reward performance on the basis of routine rather than temporary affairs. In short, there are likely to be conditions that militate against readily obtaining commitment.

There are various ways in which the design of a project management system can generate commitment. One is a "projectized" approach (where a separate project organization is created, often with autonomous funding and/or building facilities). This encourages commitment between people and clearly signals the assignment of a person to the project, both to the individual and to colleagues. Also, involving project participants in the planning lets them build commitment to their own plan. Using authority to demand compliance can sometimes foster the right behavior, but this may not amount to real commitment.

In some projects commitment is not an issue because commitment-generating features are built in. One example is a highly visible project that affects everyone in the organization, such as moving a plant from one facility to another. But for most projects, management must satisfy this need for commitment some explicit way.

Standard Success Criteria  Standard Success Criteria

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