Aaron J. Shenhar, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA, and R. Max Wideman.

A paper presented to the PICMET'97 conference "Innovation in Technology Management: The Key to Global Leadership", Portland, Oregon, USA, July 1997 (Updated for web 2002). Presented here as the third in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here February 2002.

Abstract | Introduction | Purpose | Background
Product | Work | Matrix | Style | Conclusion

The Nature of the Work Involved

Our goal is to arrive at a basic differentiation between projects from the perspective of applying different management strategies. Since management is about exercising influence over people, we need to know about the people working on the project. They, in turn, will be selected for their abilities to perform the required work. Hence, we need to focus on the major elements of the work involved to complete the project.

In the case of a new building (Tangible Project) it is not too difficult to conceive of the bulk of the work being done by workers belonging to recognized trades. That is, they have craft skills, with the ability to undertake reliable repetition. These skills are acquired by training, even though it may be through on-the-job experience.

Similarly, in the case of creating new software (Intangible Project) it is clear that the types of workers required are those with intellectual skills, such as programming. It is true that experience and training are involved, but education is a prerequisite to being able to understand problem solving, grapple with complex relationships, and devise new arrangements through iteration.

Therefore, we define craft and intellect work as follows.

A. Craft Work

Craftwork is work that has been done before, essentially requiring repetitive effort. It is an activity that fundamentally repeats a previous activity, can be improved through repetition, and conforms to the learning curve phenomena.

Such work is the result of manual dexterity. Examples might be concrete forming, assembling a chair, repairing a car and so on.

B. Intellect Work

Intellect work is work that requires substantial creative effort. It has not been done before, is exploratory in nature, and will likely require iteration. It requires new ideas and imagination.

Such work is the result of applying brainpower. Examples include developing a new theory, new process, new invention and so on.

It may be argued that all projects involve intellectual work in their planning and for this reason all project management is essentially the same. Indeed, this may be a popular misconception with many. However, it is the work in the implementation phases of the project that results in the ultimate product. It is this that distinguishes one type of project from another — and is the focus of our interest here.

The Nature of the Product  The Nature of the Product

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