This research paper has been prepared with a view to advancing the body of project management knowledge.
Published here December 2003.

Introduction | Why Model? | Early Eighties | Late Eighties
The Nineties | Models in the New Century | Summary

Project Management Models in the New Century

Around the same time as the 1997 and 1998 papers were being prepared, Forsberg, Mooz and Cotterham were developing a new and innovative perspective on project management. This work was based on their extensive collective experience with thousands of working project managers and reflected what they considered to be the four essential elements of project management. These four elements are: a common vocabulary, teamwork, the sequential project life cycle, and management elements. The relationship between these elements is shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13: The Forsberg, Mooz & Cotterham
Figure 13: The Forsberg, Mooz & Cotterham "orthogonal" model of project management

The model is intended to by dynamic and consists of three parts. First, a wheel consisting of nine spokes representing: Project Requirements; Organizing Options; Project Team; Project Planning; Opportunity and Risk; Project Control; Project Visibility; Project Status; and Corrective Action. The rim, Project Leadership, holds the whole wheel together. This wheel rotates and progresses along the Life Cycle axle.

The axle consists of a series of stages: User; Concept; System; Plan; Sourcing; Implementation; Deployment; Operations; and Deactivation. However, the axle itself also consists of the three aspects of: Technical, Business, and Budget, which must be simultaneously managed if the project is to succeed in all three. The whole is supported on the two pillars of: Common Vocabulary and Teamwork, held together by Executive Support, as shown in the illustration.

The authors describe the model as follows:

"The axle and the wheel represent the overall project management process. Crucial to our project management approach is the recognition of sequential and situational aspects of management as separate domains. The axle represents the gated project cycle and the wheel represents the situational application of the techniques and tools of the ten management elements to manage the project throughout the cycle. The relationship among the project cycle phases (the axle) and the management elements (the wheel) is orthogonal and dynamic, as the wheel moves along the axle with progress. The wheel and axle rest on the two piers of vocabulary and teamwork, two perpetual essentials without which the cycle and elements could not function effectively. These four essentials are reinforced by executive support."[22]

Another ongoing initiative is the voluntary efforts of a group of worldwide knowledgeable participants under the leadership of Professor Lynn Crawford, Director of Program, Project Management, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. This group has met intermittently for the purpose of identifying and developing a globally agreed body of project management knowledge as the basis for genuinely global and transferable project management standards, certification and accreditation programs ... The philosophy is that the work of the group draws credibility from the voluntary participation of recognized opinion leaders in project management, contributing on the basis that all inputs of the group will be in the public domain. This group is working together in the interests of development of project management as a profession and a discipline.[23]

Considerable progress has been made since the first meeting in 1998, with the most recent meeting in Lille, France, 2003. This resulted in Working Report No 1: Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel.[24] A brief abstract of the resulting observations relative to our area of interest, i.e. models of project management, follows:

"This report presents the results of a three day Working Session held in Lille, France, from 24th to 26th February, 2003 with the aim of progressing the development of a framework of Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel. The Working Session was attended by 21 people representing a wide range of stakeholder perspectives and a considerable breadth and depth of project management experience ...

From detailed examination of [the available] standards and guides, as well as selected knowledge guides, 48 concepts/topics were identified as being represented in one or more of the documents under review. In order to ensure that development of a global framework reflected the content of existing standards and guides, these 48 concepts/topics were used as a starting point at the Lille Working Session ...

Over three days of intense discussion and interaction, Working Session participants reviewed and synthesized these base concepts and came to agreement on:
  • A definition of the role of the Project Manager
  • Identification of 13 Units describing significant functions that need to be performed by most Project Managers in most contexts ...
Defining a body of knowledge and developing guides and standards for practice as a basis for education, training and associated certification or qualification programs are activities generally associated with the formation of a profession ...

The purpose of this initiative is therefore to develop an agreed framework for Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel that can be used by organizations, academic institutions, professional associations and government standards and qualifications bodies globally ...

For purposes of working towards a framework of Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel, a 'framework' is defined as a structure that describes elements and relationships, enabling stakeholders with divergent views and vested interests to achieve a common understanding and enter into productive dialogue ...

Performance based competency standards describe what people can be expected to do in their working roles, as well as the knowledge and understanding of their occupation that is needed to underpin these roles at a specific level of competence ...

The definition of Competency, within the context of performance based or occupational competency standards, is considered as addressing two questions:
  • What is usually done in the workplace in this particular occupation/profession/role?
  • What standard of performance is normally required? ...
Facilitation of the Lille Working Session was carefully planned to
  • draw upon the knowledge and experience of expert participants
  • assist the expert participants in developing a shared understanding of the nature of performance based standards and the processes involved in their development
  • provide a platform that would enable the participants, representing a wide range of interests and world views, to interact productively, reach new insights and achieve agreement
  • ensure that the content of existing standards and guides was recognized in, and could be mapped to, the outcomes from the Working Session ...
The focus of attention at this Working Session was the occupation or role of the Project Manager ...

The attendees at the Lille Working Session developed a generic description [for this] role [for] MOST Project Managers in MOST contexts: This role includes individuals who are directly accountable for project execution and outcomes in an organizationally complex environment involving multiple, significant groups of stakeholders ...

Using the 48 concepts/topics, derived from research and representing the content of existing standards and guides, Working Session participants, through a carefully facilitated process, developed and agreed on 13 groupings of the concepts/topics that represented significant functions that need to be performed by most Project Managers in most contexts. These are presented as the first level or Units of a proposed global framework of performance based standards for project management personnel ..."

The resulting "mind map" is shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14: The Lille workshop Units considered to be applicable only to some Project Managers in some contexts are shown shaded
Figure 14: The Lille workshop "mind map" developed from 48 concepts/topics[25]
(click for larger diagram - opens a pdf window. Close window to return to this page.)

This mapping of some 48 topics seems to me to be a big step forward. If it could become generally accepted as the basis for project management content, then the Lille working session has made a valuable contribution to the discipline of project management. I do, however, have some suggestions for further improvement.

  • I think that the use of the term "project execution" in the definition of the role of the project manager is unfortunate and restrictive. It suggests that the role is limited to the execution phases of the project and does not include the earlier project conceptualization and definition. It also implies that a "real" project only exists once it is in the execution phases. A more general alternative description might be "carrying out the project", or similar wording.

  • Similarly, the description "in an organizationally complex environment involving multiple, significant groups of stakeholders" also seems to be unnecessarily limiting. There are very many projects that may not meet these criteria but still require thorough project management. In any case, who defines what constitutes "an organizationally complex environment" and how many stakeholders must there be to be "significant"?

  • I think the model could still be further simplified. Considering that Patel and Morris have stated publicly and unequivocally that the project life cycle is the single characteristic that distinguishes projects from non-projects,[26] this should have a higher profile in the structure. True that the project life cycle is inherent as a cross-unit outcome, and two elements do indeed show up at the upper level, namely: Project Start-up (28) and Finalization (29). However, there is an awful lot that goes on in between these two, as Professor Rodney Turner has rightly opined. Therefore, I would simplify by amalgamating Project Start-up (28) and Finalization (##?) under a Project Life Cycle Unit and give the content more "body" of what goes on in between. In my view, one of the great weaknesses of current "knowledges" is their lack of attention to the project life cycle as a basis for executive and management control.

  • And while we are on the idea of simplification, the relative lack of content for the well established functions of scope, quality, time and cost (as indicated under these headings in Appendix E of the Report, pp38-39) suggests that we could (properly) elevate the topic "Integration Management (13)" to contain and consolidate these four together with Estimating (9) which would seem to fit nicely.

  • I am not so sure where the remaining entry "Project Context / Environment (27)" under "Cross Unit Outcomes (##?)" belongs, but perhaps it really belongs under "Strategic Alignment (42)"

Leaving aside the areas designated as "gray", we would then be left with nine (very strong) core Project Manager Role units, which number falls within Miller's famous mental limit of "seven, plus or minus two".

The resulting diagram would then be as shown Figure 15.

Figure 15: Wideman's suggested
Figure 15: Wideman's suggested "simplification" of the project manager role units mind map.
(click for larger diagram - opens a new window)

Project Management Models in the Nineties  Project Management Models in the Nineties

22. Forsberg, K., H. Mooz & H. Cotterham, Visualizing Project Management: A Model for Business and Technical Success, 2nd Edition, Wiley, NY, 2000, 44.
23. Crawford, L., briefing notes by Email 5/9/01.
24. Abstracted from the report from Working Session 24-26 February, 2003, Lille, France
25. Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel (2003) Working Paper No 1: Report from Working Session 24-26 February, 2003, Lille, France, Figure 5, p19.
26. Patel, M. B. & Prof. P.G. W. Morris, Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Centre for Research in the Management of Projects, University of Manchester, UK, 1999, p52.
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