Aaron J. Shenhar, Institute Professor of Management, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ and R. Max Wideman

The original of this paper first published on the PMForum web site, September, 2000. (Updated presentation, April, 2002.) Presented here as the fifth in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here April, 2002.

Introduction | Project Management | Success | Nature | Content
Project Work | Style | Types of Leader | All Together | Conclusions

The Nature of Projects Generally

Projects are not only unique undertakings but their range in objectives, size, complexity and technology (areas of project management application) are almost limitless. To aid in sponsorship planning and decision-making, it would clearly be helpful if projects could be categorized into some meaningful and practical classification framework.

To this end, Shenhar et al conducted a series of studies over the period 1993-1998 based on a collection of more than 120 projects for which detailed management data was available.[5][6][7][8] The authors found that as technological uncertainty increases so does the need for increased technical management and that as complexity increases so does the need for higher and more formal project management. However, as both increase there is a third dimension in which there must be much higher levels of process and component integration and testing as shown diagrammatically in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Uncertainty versus Complexity
Figure 2: Uncertainty versus Complexity Trend

Subsets of these projects were then examined more closely for parameters that might be relevant and suitable. Up to 100 parameters were identified, but for practical purposes a simple but enlightening classification system emerged. Based on their findings, the authors proposed a two dimensional project typology consisting of Project Management Scope versus Technological Uncertainty.

Again, for practical purposes, the two continuous scales have been reduced to four levels of Technological Content and three levels of Program/Project Management Scope. This matrix is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Project Classification
Figure 3: Project Classification

The descriptors along each dimension of Figure 3 are briefly described in the next section. Fuller descriptions are provided in an earlier paper in this series.[9]

Project Success  Project Success

5. Shenhar, A.J. , From Low- to High-Tech Project Management, R&D Management 23, 3, 1993, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK, pp. 199-214.
6. A.J. Shenhar and D. Dvir: "Toward a Typological Theory of Project Management."śResearch Policy, Vol.25, pp.607-632, 1996.
7. A.J. Shenhar: "From Theory to Practice: Toward A Typology of Project Management Styles." IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 41,1, pp.33-48, 1998.
8. D. Dvir, S. Lipovetsky, A.J. Shenhar, and A. Tishler: "In Search of Project Classification: A Non-Universal Approach to Project Success Factors." Research Policy, Vol.27, pp.915-935, 1998.
9. Shenhar, A.J., & R. M. Wideman, Improving PM: Linking Success Criteria to Project Type, Proceedings Project Management '96 Symposium, Calgary, AB, May 1996, pp.71-76.
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