Word Hierarchies in Project Management Part 2
As I mentioned last month, about seven years ago I had trouble deciding which
comes first: Tools or Techniques? Activities or Tasks? Goals or Objectives? And
similar sets of related terms. I solved that problem, at least in my mind, by
deliberately defining each term in a set such that its level in the hierarchy
is self-evident. In systems speak, that means establishing the level of "granularity"
for the term in question.
So, the following pages show hierarchical lists of related words popularly
used in project management, from top to bottom, or degree of granularity, large
to small as I see them in the majority of current literature! Note
that the term "Project Management" used here implies all levels from Portfolio
But first, let's take a look at the one hierarchy that underpins all the rest.
Data-Wisdom hierarchy (DIKW)
Level 1: Data. At the lowest level these are just discrete bits, similar
to the digits in a telephone number. Of themselves they mean very little, and
only represent potential.
Level 2: Information. This is akin to the assembly of the digits into
a string of digits that represents my telephone number. This information has real
use because it can enable direct contact with me personally.
Phase transition to understanding
This transition involves establishing a mental state capable of acquiring information
and grasping its significance, i.e., creating an ability to understand. It
is key to being able to make use of the information through storage as "knowledge",
e.g., how you can use the information of a telephone number and apply it
to an instrument to actually facilitate contact with someone.
Level 3: Knowledge. This is the information that you can acquire and
retain in your memory for future recall when you have need. In the case of the
telephone number, as knowledge, you can use it without reference to a lookup source,
and apply it any time to make contact with the owner of the number.
Level 4: Wisdom. This is perhaps the highest level when you not only
retain information in memory, but also know how best to use it, when and in what
circumstances. Generally, wisdom seems only to be acquired through experience.
For example, don't telephone me after lunch because I am probably having a nap
and will not be sympathetic.
If all of this is true, then it should be noted that all communication takes
place at Level 2 and it is a mistake to refer to papers, articles, statements,
standards and the like as anything but "Information", although some "content"
may be a description about someone else's "knowledge" or "wisdom".
Note also that between Level 2 and Level 3, what we see is a significant
or major transformation in which information is "internalized" to
become knowledge. This is not unlike the major transformation that takes place
in the life span of a project wherein conceptual "Planning" is transformed into
action that produces desired "Products".
With this kind of thing in mind, here are a few hierarchies that I think are
useful to remember. They are all listed from top (coarsest granularity) to bottom
Professional Knowledge hierarchy
Application as seen by the public
- Explanations or Notes
Management time lines
- Periods or macro phases
Program and project planning
Aims and objectives
- Action plans
- Performance Standards
Program and project execution
Product Life Span management
Scope elaboration through the life span
- White paper
- Opportunity Paper
- Decision Case (Programs)
- Business Case (Projects)
- Project Charter, Project Brief
- Project Implementation Plan
- Work Breakdown Structure
- Detailed Design Briefs
- Production Contracts
- Change Orders
- Product Delivery acceptances
- Usage and Benefit Delivery Reports
- Retirement and disposal
No doubt, dear reader, you will not agree with all of the terms I have included,
nor the sequences I have shown. Moreover, there are probably other sets that are
useful in project management that I have not even thought of. If so, please feel
free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and set me straight!