Fundamental Uncertainties in Projects and the Scope of Project Mangement (Atkinson et al. 2006)

Uncertainty(1-Thumb) Uncertainty(2-Thumb)

Atkinson, Roger; Crawford, Lynn; Ward, Stephen: Fundamental Uncertainties in Projects and the Scope of Project Management, in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 24 (2008), pp. 687-698.

Very interesting article, clearly in the normative/positivist’s tradition of how to do Risk Management better. Firstly the authors dissect uncertainties typically found in projects into (1) Uncertainty in estimates, (2) Uncertainty with project parties, and (3) Uncertainty with project life cycle. What does it matter? The authors argue that not all uncertainties are typically the scope of classic risk management. Therefore the project objective should be the ultima ratio, especially if trade-off decisions are needed. Furthermore crystal clear decision making needs one decision-maker, therefore project uncertainties need an owner.

In the second part (on my page 2) Atkinson et al. outline the difference between hard and soft projects. They do outline some characteristics of hard vs. soft projects, e.g. degree of external influences, tangibility of artefacts. Secondly they outline two modes of problem-solving sense-making, and data collecting. They put forward, that a problem rooted in a difference in information required vs. information at hand, calls for a data collection effort to solve; whereas a problem caused by different interpretion of the same data requires sense-making as a problem-solving technique. Moreover they locate the typical soft projects in a high ambiguity and high uncertainty quadrant, thus needing sense-making, and value analysis for problem solving.

Lastly they call for trust (especially on soft projects) instead of controls. And outline a Trust Audit as a project management tool, instead of auditing controls.

2 Responses to “Fundamental Uncertainties in Projects and the Scope of Project Mangement (Atkinson et al. 2006)”

  1. […] article is closely related to the 2006 article by Atkinson et al., which are all based on the hard-soft-framework first published in Crawford, Lynn; Pollack, Julien: […]

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