Aaron J. Shenhar, Professor of Technology Management, James J. Renier Visiting Chair, Center for the Development of Technological Leadership, University of Minnesota, MN and R. Max Wideman

This paper is the first of a series of six papers describing the search for a best practices linkage from project classification through management style to project success. It represent part of the research conducted between 1992 and 1998. This paper was presented to an INFORMS Conference in Washington, DC, in May, 1996, and briefly reviews the genesis of modern project management and its scope in today's business and technical environment.

Published here December, 2001.

Background  | Genesis | Scope | Typology | Classification | Linking | Conclusion

Developing a Project Typology

Now that we have a feel for the full breadth and depth of project management, the burning question is 'How is all this related to the real world of projects?' Given a particular project to undertake, how can we decide what is important and what is not? What priorities should we pursue? What organizational structure will be most appropriate? What management style to adopt? And so on.

Since projects are essentially unique undertakings, and their range in objectives, size, complexity and technology are almost limitless, it would clearly be beneficial if projects could be brought within some manageable classification framework. In this respect we are most fortunate.

Intensive study has been conducted over the last four years on a collection of more than 120 projects for which detailed management data was available. Subsets of these have been used for more detailed examination with a view to establishing a project classification system. Up to 100 parameters have been examined for relevance and suitability. The recommendations are both enlightening and simple.[4],[5],[6],[7]

As a result of this research, a two dimensional project typology consisting of Project Management Scope versus Technological Uncertainty has been proposed. Within this typology, the primary considerations which emerged from the research can be separated into three groupings. There are those that are associated with an increase in Program/Project Management Scope, or complexity, and there are those that are associated with increasing Technological Uncertainty, according to the technology content. When projects progress along both dimensions simultaneously, a third set of considerations emerge. These are shown in Figure 2: Project Management Trends: along Scope and Uncertainty Dimensions.

Figure 2: Project Management Trends along Scope and Uncertainty Dimensions

Figure 2: Project Management Trends along Scope and Uncertainty Dimensions

For practical purposes, the two continuous scales have been reduced to three levels of complexity and four levels of Technology Content. This matrix is shown in Figure 3: Proposed Project Classification System.

Scope of Project Management in Today's Business and Technical Environmen  Scope of Project Management

4.  Shenhar, A. J., From Low- to High-tech Project Management, R&D Management 23, 3, 1993, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK, pp 199-214.
5.  Shenhar, A. J., Contingent Project Management: A Classical Concept in a New Arena, U. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1994 (Working paper)
6.  Shenhar, A. J., Some Projects are More Equal: Toward a Typology of Project Management Styles, U. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1995 (Working paper)
7.  Shenhar, A. J., & Dov Dvir, Managing Technology Projects: A Contingent Exploratory Approach, Proceedings 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 1995, pp 494-503.
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