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 Project Work

The foregoing classification provides a way of categorizing projects and consequently for assessing the extent and type of management techniques required. But what of the people involved? Are there differences in the styles of management that would be most appropriate in each case for managing the people on the project?

It is a common experience that different people respond to different styles of leadership. Some respond better to being told what to do, while others respond better when allowed to think more for themselves. Intuitively, one suspects that the former aligns more with craft work requiring training while the latter aligns more with intellectual work where people have more opportunity to educate themselves.

Therefore, the authors suggest that differences in project management styles should be determined by a more fundamental distinction between or within projects. This distinction has to do with both the type of product emanating from the project and the type of work required to create that product, and this distinction should be made at the individual work-package level.

Depending on the nature of the work package product, the effort required to manage the process and to produce the product will require varying degrees of both intellectualism and craftsmanship. From the perspective of management, it is the extent and balance between these components that provide the distinguishing features.

Thus, we can envision a simple matrix consisting of two broad types of product, namely, "tangible" and "intangible", and two types of work, namely, "craft" and "intellect". These may be defined as follows.[10]

Tangible Product. These products are ones in which the primary value is in the physical artifact.

Examples — new building, a piece of hardware.

Intangible Product. These products are ones in which the primary value is in their intellectual property even though there is some tangible product as the vehicle for conveyance.

Examples — new software, a manual.

Craft Work. This work is the result of manual dexterity, has been done before, and essentially requires repetitive effort.

Examples — brick laying, welding.

Intellect Work. This work is the result of applying "brain-power", has not been done before, and requires new ideas and imagination.

Examples — new process, new design.

It should be noted that all projects involve intellectual work in their planning and in this respect all projects appear to be similar. Indeed, this may be the root of a popular misconception with many that all project management is the same. However, it is the production work in the execution stage of the project that results in actual final product and, from a project management perspective, it is this that distinguishes one type of project from another.

At first glance it might appear that craft work is simply the requirement of tangible-type projects, and intellect work is the requirement of intangible-type projects. However, a 2x2 matrix introduces the possibility of adding both tangible-intellect projects as well as intangible-craft projects.

Table 3[11] shows the characteristics, results, and some examples of each of all four basic project types.




Type of Work or Effort (in the project) Intellect (requires education)

- Not done before
- Subject to linear logic
- Requires iterations
- Resources less predictable

- Non-repetitive, first of its kind
- Creative effort
- Minimal repetition
- Resources unpredictable
- Exploratory

Development of new physical artifact

Development of new piece of intellectual property

New invention, device; All-new 'mouse-trap'; new product from R&D

New book, poem, music, movie, etc; New algorithm, theory, idea; New technology process; New software

Craft (requires training)

- Much repetitive effort
- Linear logic applies
- Learning curve effects
- Learn by doing
- Resources predictable
- Relatively high cost involved

- Based on previous model
- No iterations, only corrections
- Learn by repetition
- Physical format required only for distribution
- Resource predicatble
- Relatively low reproduction cost

Typical physical artifact

Typical piece of intellectual property

Typical new physical plant, infrastructure, product, e.g. building, utility, car, appliance

Typical system, software upgrade, etc; Policies, procedures manual; Plan for factory shut-down


(value is in the entity)

(value is in the content)

Type of Product (from the project)

Table 3: Basic Project or Major Element Classification
Technological Content  Technological Content

10. Shenhar, A.J., & R.M. Wideman, Towards a Fundamental Differentiation between Projects, Proceedings PICMET Management and Engineering Conference, Portland, OR, July 1997 (to be presented)
11. Ibid.
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