Models to the Rescue
Pictorial models help us understand complex relationships. They can broaden
and clarify our perspectives by helping us to see the big picture, help to avoid
confusion by explaining how things work, and express rules more simply by clarifying
relationships. Who, for instance, would be able to grasp the complexities of
nature's DNA structure without the colored 3-D graphics we see on TV?
Project management is also a complex structure and there have been a number
of attempts to capture it through models. Some examples include the early 'Schedule-Cost-Performance'
model, the 'Scope of Project Management' model, the 'Matrix Model', the 1987
PMBoK 'Star' model, or the '3-D Integrative (toolbox) Model.
However, few of these seem to capture the totality of project management.
One of the most recent models has been developed by Forsberg, Mooz and Cotterham.
Their model depicts a wheel made up of nine management elements or spokes, held
together by a tenth element which forms its rim. This wheel progresses along
a three-stranded axle representing the product's life cycle. The model is somewhat
complex and therefore unsuited to our purpose, but it is important for several
In addition to the usual topics of teamwork, project life cycle and the elements
of management control, Forsberg et al first emphasize the importance of communicating
through a common vocabulary for each project - even small ones. They also differentiate
between 'technical' management and 'project' management. Most crucial, they
separate the 'perpetual' aspects of the project life cycle, imposed by the project
environment, the 'sequence-driven' aspect imposed by logical performance, and
the 'situation-driven' aspect, imposed by managing.
These are all facets of project management that are commonly overlooked.
For example, the Project Management Institute's current Guide to the Project
Management Body of Knowledge takes a systems input-process-output view of project
management and is replete with diagrammatic models. Unfortunately, in this author's
view, the most important project management model, 'Links Among Process Groups...'
is badly flawed. It, and subsequent diagrams, confuse a major management situational
process with several sequential processes and show misleading relationships.
In a thoughtful 1992 Project Management Journal paper on project management
descriptors, Abdomerovic observed that "Information today is produced in such
quantities that our efforts may be repeatedly wasted simply because it is not
possible to determine what work has already been done or, at a minimum, we spend
more time looking for documents than looking at
His paper describes research on some 2000 titles from which he abstracted more
than 1800 descriptors and shows how they might be organized into a structured
hierarchy. The structure has two difficulties. The normal hierarchy gives no
indication of what rules are being applied in, or relationships implied by,
entering a descriptor at any given location. Also, his hierarchy has up to eighteen
levels, rather more than is practical. Nevertheless, his paper does provide
a valuable resource for our project.
5. Wideman, R. M., A Framework for Project
and Program Management, Project Management Institute, PA, 1991, Appendix A:
A Historical Perspective.
6. Forsberg, K., H. Mooz & H. Cotterham, Visualizing Project
Management, John Wiley & Sons, NY, 1996.
7. Ibid., p22.
8. Duncan, W. R., A Guide to the Project Management Body
of Knowledge, Project Management Institute, PA, 1996, p28.
9. Abdomerovic, M., Project Management Descriptors, Project
Management Journal, Project Management Institute, PA, 1992, p42.