Author Archive

Governance Frameworks for Public Project Development and Estimation (Klakegg et al., 2008)

Montag, November 3rd, 2008

 Governance Frameworks for Public Project Development and Estimation (Klakegg et al., 2008)

Klakegg, Ole Jonny; Williams, Terry; Magnussen, Ole Morten; Glasspool, Helene: Governance Frameworks for Public Project Development and Estimation; in: Project Management Journal, Vol. 39 (2008), Supplement, pp. S27–S42.
DOI: 10.1002/pmj.20058

Klakegg et al. compare different public governance frameworks, particularly the UK’s Ministry of Defense, UK’s Office of Government Commerce, and Norway’s framework. The authors find that „the frameworks have to be politically and administratively
well anchored. A case study particularly looking into cost and time illustrates how the framework influences the project through scrutiny. The analysis shows the governance frameworks are important in securing transparency and control and clarifies the role of sponsor“ (p. S27)

Their analysis starts with the question of „Who are governance relevant stakeholders?„. The authors show two different general approaches to public governance stakeholders – Shareholder Value Systems and Communitarian Systems. The Shareholder Value System is based on the principle that only shareholders are legitimate stakeholders – a system which is used in the US, UK, and Canada. On the other hand the Communitarian System is based on the idea that all impacted communities and persons are relevant stakeholders – a system typically found in Norway, Germany, and numerous other countries. A secondary line of thought is the difference between Western and Asian stakeholder ideas, whereas the Asian idea is underlining the concept of family and the Western idea is underlining the relationship concept.

To pin down the idea of public project governance the authors draw parallels to corporate governance with it’s chain of management ↔ board ↔ shareholder ↔ stakeholder. The APM defines project governance as the corporate governance that is related to projects with the aim that sustainable alternatives are choosen and delivered efficiently. Thus the authors define a governance framework as an organised structure, authoritive in organisation with processes and rules established to ensure the project meets its purpose.

The reviewed governance frameworks show interesting differences – for example in the control basis, reviewer roles, report formats, supporting organisation, and mode of initiation. The principles they are based on range from management of expectations, to establishing hurdles to cross, to making recommendations. Focus of the reviews can be the business case, outputs, inputs, or used methods.

Protecting Software Development Projects against Underestimation (Miranda & Abran, 2008)

Montag, November 3rd, 2008

Protecting Software Development Projects against Underestimation (Miranda & Abran, 2008)

Miranda, Eduardo; Abran, Alain: Protecting Software Development Projects Against Underestimation; in: Project Management Journal, Vol. 39, No. 3, 75–85.
DOI: 10.1002/pmj.20067

In this article Miranda & Abran argue „that project contingencies should be based on the amount it will take to recover from the underestimation, and not on the amount that would have been required had the project been adequately planned from the beginning, and that these funds should be administered at the portfolio level.“

Thus they propose delay funds instead of contingencies. The amount of that fund depends on the magnitude of recovery needed (u) and the time of recovery (t).  t and u are described using a PERT-like model of triangular probability distribution, based on a best, most-likely, and worst case estimation.

The authors argue that typically in a software development three effects occur that lead to underestimation of contingencies. These three effects are (1) MAIMS behaviour, (2) use of contingencies, (3) delay.
MAIMS stands for ‚money allocated is money spent‘ – which means that cost overruns usually can not be offset by cost under-runs somewhere else in the project. The second effect is that contingency is mostly used to add resources to the project in order to keep the schedule. Thus contingencies are not used to correct underestimations of the project, i.e. most times the plan remains unchanged until all hope is lost. The third effect is that delay is an important cost driver, but delay is only acknowledged as late as somehow possible. This is mostly due to the facts of wishful thinking and inaction inertia on the project management side.

Tom DeMarco proposed a simple square root formula to express that staff added to a late project makes it even later. In this paper Miranda & Abran break this idea down into several categories to better estimate these effects.

In their model the project runs through three phases after delay occurred:

  1. Time between the actual occurence of the delay and when the delay is decided-upon
  2. Additional resources are being ramped-up
  3. Additional resources are fully productive

During this time the whole contingency needed can be broken down into five categories:

  1. Budgeted effort, which would occur anyway with delay or not = FTE * Recovery time as orginally planned
  2. Overtime effort, which is the overtime worked of the original staff after the delay is decided-upon
  3. Additional effort by additional staff, with a ramp-up phase
  4. Overtime contibuted by the additonal staff
  5. Process losses du to ramp-up, coaching, communication by orginal staff to the addtional staff

Their model also includes fatigue effects which reduce the overtime worked on the project, with the duration of that overtime-is-needed-period. Finally the authors give a numerical example.

Managerial complexity in project-based operations – A grounded model and its implications for practice (Maylor et al., 2008)

Montag, November 3rd, 2008

 Managerial complexity in project-based operations - A grounded model and its implications for practice (Maylor et al., 2008)

Maylor, Harvey; Vidgen, Richard; Carver, Stephen: Managerial complexity in project-based operations – A grounded model and its implications for practice; in: Journal of Project Management, Vol. 39 (2008), No. S1, pp. S15-S26.
DOI: 10.1002/pmj.20057

Maylor et al. investigate the question – What makes a project complex? More specifically this question asks for managerial complexity of projects, which is neither technical nor environmental complexity which has been looked at in depth in research surrounding the whole areas of function point estimation.

The literature review finds several previous approaches to measure complexity

  • Number of physical elements and interdependencies (Baccarini, 1996)
  • Structural uncertainty (number of project elements), uncertainty of goals and objectives (Williams, 1999)
  • Static dimension – assembly-system-array (Shenhar, 2001)
  • Organisational complexity, technical novelty, scale complexity (Maylor, 2003)
  • Observer-dependent, time-dependent, problem-dependent projects (Jaafari, 2003)
  • Organisational x technological complexity (Xia & Lee, 2004)
  • Communication and power relationships, amibguity, change (Cicmil & Marshall, 2005)

The authors then propose the MODeST model with the dimensions of mission, organisation, delivery, stakeholder, and team. In this qualitative focus group based research, the authors break down the dimesions into

– Objectives
– Scale
– Uncertainty
– Constraints

– Time & Space
– Organisational setting

– Process
– Resources

– Stakeholder attributes
– Inter-stakeholder relationships

– Project staff
– Project manager
– Group

This Complexity Measurements Table shows their full set of questions with the questions stricken out that were not mentioned sufficiently in the focus group discussions.

Governance and support in the sponsoring of projects and programs (Crawford et al., 2008)

Montag, November 3rd, 2008

 Governance and support in the sponsoring of projects and programs (Crawford et al., 2008)

Crawford, Lynn; Cooke-Davies, Terry; Hobbs, Brian; Labuschagne, Les; Remington, Kaye, Chen, Ping: Governance and support in the sponsoring of projects and programs; in: Project Management Journal, Vol. 39 (2008), No. S1, p. S43-S55.

Sponsoring of projects and programs is increasingly getting attention in project management research. The authors argue that this is due to two factors – (1) recognition of contextual critical success factors and (2) push for corporate governance.
[I personally think that riding that dead horse Sarbox is questionable to say the least and I can think of so many reasons why corporations want some of their projects controlled thightly.]

This article presents findings from a qualitative survey, in which 108 interviews from 36 projects in 9 organisations were collected. Crawford et al. propose a general model of project sponsorship – as they put it: „The conceptual model has significant potential to provide organizations and sponsors with guidance in understanding and defining the effective contextual conduct of the sponsorship role.“

Their general model consists of two dimensions – Need for Governance and Need for Support. In this model each sponsor can find his/her spot in the matrix by assessing what his/her focus of representation is. Sponsors either represent the need of the permanent organisation (need for governance) or they represent the need of the temporary organisation (need for support). In the interviews conducted, they identified typical situations which require a shift in emphasising one or the other dimension.

When to emphasise governance?
Among the resons and examples given during the interviews were: the project is high risk for the parent organisation, project performs poorly, markets are changing rapidly, governance or regulation call for increased oversight, project team behaved illegaly or non-compliant, the project is mission-critical, or the project’s objective is to re-align the company to a new strategy.

When to emphasise support?
Typical situations given were: parent organisation fails to provide resources, project faces resistance in the organisation, different stakeholders impose conflicting objecitve on the project, lack of decision-making by the parent organisation, project team is weak or inexperienced, or the project shows early signs of difficulities.

Among the many open research questions not yet addressed are –
What are the essential attributes to effective sponsoring?
Which influence does one or the other strategie has on project success?
Which competencies are required in a sponsor?
What are the factors contributing to effective sponsorship performance?
What does the role of the sponsor in different contexts of programmes/projects/organisations look like?

The Complexity of Self–Complexity: An Associated Systems Theory Approach (Schleicher & McConnell, 2005)

Dienstag, Oktober 28th, 2008

The Complexity of Self–Complexity: An Associated Systems Theory Approach (Schleicher & McConnell, 2005)

Schleicher, Deidra J.; McConnell, Allen R.: The Complexity of Self–Complexity: An Associated Systems Theory Approach; in: Social Cognition, Vol. 23 (2005), No. 5, pp. 387-416.
doi: 10.1521/soco.2005.23.5.387

In my search for complexity measurements of intangible projects I came across this approach to measure the most complex thing I could think of – our beautiful mind.

In this article Schleicher & McConnell describe the commonly used trait sorting exercise to measure self-complexity. Participants are presented 25-40 traits or roles on cards. Then they are asked to group them so that they best describe the aspects of their selfs. For example a participant might group well-dressed, anxious, mature into as traits describing the student aspect of her self.
To measure the self-complexity redundancy and relatedness of the groupings need to be assessed using following formula:

H = log2n – ( ∑i ni log2ni ) / n
n = total number of attributes for sorting, ni = number of attributes in each group/self-aspect, i = number of groups/self-aspects

Studies have confirmed that participants with a higher self-complexity are better in managing stress, well-being, physical illness, and depression.

Schleicher & McConnell propose a two dimensional concept of self-complexity – (1) target-reference: concrete vs. abstract, (2) self-reference: public vs. private self.

Concrete ← target-reference → Abstract
Visual System Verbal System Public Self
Visual appearance Social Categories Personality Traits
Behavioural Observations Evaluations self-reference
Behavioural Responses Orientations Affective Responses
Action System Affective System Private Self

Balance Sheet Analysis

Dienstag, Oktober 28th, 2008

 Balance Sheet Analysis

After the monstrous write-up of the Bredillet article on the MAP method, I just wanted to quickly write this down. I did a quick overview of the usual suspects when it comes to Balance Sheet Analysis. There are four major categories I) Liquidity, II) Profitability Ratios, III) Financial Leverage Ratio, IV) Efficiency Ratio.

I) Liquditiy

  • Working Capital = current assets – current liabilities
  • Acid Test = (cash + marketable securities + accounts receivable) / current liabilities
  • Current Ratio = current assets / current liabilities
  • Cash Ratio= (cash equivalents + marketable securities) / current liabilities

II) Profitability

  • Net Profit Margin = net income / net sales
  • Return on Assets = net income / ((beginning of period + end of period assets)/2)
  • Operating Income Margin = operating income / net sales
  • Gross Profit Margin = gross profit / net sales
  • Return on Equity = net income / equity
  • Return on Investment = net income / (long-term liabilities + equity)

III) Financial Leverage

  • Capitalisation = long-term debt / (long-term debt + owner’s equity)
  • Interest Coverage Ratio = EBIT / interest expense
  • Long-term debt to net working capital = long-term debt / (current assets – current liabilities)
  • Debt to Equity = total debt / total equity
  • Total debts of assets = total liabilities / total assets

IV) Efficiency

  • Cash Turnover = net sales / cash
  • Sales to Working Capital = net sales / average working capital
  • Total Assets Turnover = net sales / average total assets
  • Fixed Assets Turnover = net sales / fixed assets

Learning and acting in project situations through a meta-method (MAP) a case study: Contextual and situational approach for project management governance in management education (Bredillet, 2008)

Dienstag, Oktober 28th, 2008


Bredillet, Christophe N.: Learning and acting in project situations through a meta-method (MAP) a case study – Contextual and situational approach for project management governance in management education; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 3, pp. 238-250.

[This is a relatively complex post that follows – the article goes into epistemology quite deep (What is knowledge? How do we acquire it?) without much explanation given by the author. I tried to put together some explanatory background to make the rationale for the article more accessible. If you are just interested in the curriculum Bredillet proposes for learning project management on the job, skip these parts and jump right to the end of the post.]

In this article Bredillet outlines his meta-method used to teach project management. This method’s goal is to provide a framework in terms of processes and structure for learning in situ, namely on projects, programmes and alike. Bredillet argues that this method is best in accounting for complex, uncertain and ambiguous environments.

[Skip this part if you’re only interested in the actual application of the method.]

The authors starts with reviewing the three dominant project perspectives. a) Instrumental Perspective, which defines a project as a temporary endeavour to create something. b) Cognitive Perspective, which defines projects as exploitation of constraints and human/monetary capital in order to achieve an outcome. c) Political Perspective, which define projects as spatial actions which are temporarily limited, thus interacting with their environment. Bredillet argues that project management education does not reflect these perspectives according to their importance in the real world.

Bredillet argues that project management, knowledge creation and production (epistemology) have to integrate classical scientific aspects (Positivism) as well as fuzzy symbolisms (Constructivism). He says: „that the ‚demiurgic‘ characteristic of project management involves seeing this field as an open space, without ‚having‘ (Have) but rather with a raison d’être (Be), because of the construction of Real by the projects“ (p. 240).
Without any prior indulgence into epistemology (‚What is knowledge?‘ E. v. Glaserfeldt, Simon, Le Moigne etc.) this sentence is rather cryptic. What Bredillet wants to achieve is to unify the Positivist and Constructivist epistemology. Positivist epistemology can shortly be summarised to be our approach to understand the world quantitatively (= have = materialism, with only few degrees of freedom, e.g., best practices, OR, statistical methods). On the other hand Constructivist epistemology tries to understand the world with a qualitative focus (=be = immateriality, with many degrees of freedom, e.g., learning, knowledge management, change management). Bredillet summarises the constructivist epistemology citing Comte as „from Science comes Prevision, from Prevision comes Action“, and the positivist epistemology according to Le Moigne’s two hypothesis of reference – phenomenological („an existing and knowledgeable reality may be constructed by its observers who are then its constructors“) and teleological („knowledge is what gets us somewhere and that knowledge is constructed with an aim“).

Bredillet then argues that most research follows the positivist approach, valuing explicit over tacit knowledge, individual knowledge over team/organisational knowledge. To practically span the gap between Constructivism and Positivism Bredillet suggests to acknowledge tacit, explicit, team and individual knowledge as „distinct forms – inseparable and mutually enabling“ (p. 240).

How to unify Constructivsm and Postivitsm in Learning of Project Management?
Practically he explores common concepts always from both views, from the positivist and the constructivist standpoint, for instance, Bredillet describes concepts of organisational learning using the single-loop model (Postivism) vs. double-loop model, and system dynamics theory (Constructivsm).  Secondly, Bredillet stresses that learning and praxis are integrated, which is what the MAP method is all about:

„The MAP method provides structure and process for analysing, solving and governance of macro, meso, and micro projects. It is founded on the interaction between decision-makers, project team, and various stakeholders.“ (p. 240)

The three theoretical roots for the map method are (1) Praxeological epistemology, (2) N-Learning vs. S-Learning, (3) Theory of Convention. Thus the map method novelty is that it

  • Recognises the co-evolution of actor and his/her environment,
  • Enables integrated learning,
  • Aims at generating a convention (rules of decision) to cope with the uncertainty and complexity in projects.

Ad (1): The basic premises of Praxeological epistemology [in Economics] taken from Block (1973):

  • Human action can only be undertaken by individual actors
  • Action necessarily requires a desired end and a technological plan
  • Human action necessarily aims at improving the future
  • Human action necessarily involves a choice among competing ends
  • All means are necessarily scarce
  • The actor must rank his alternative ends
  • Choices continually change, both because of changed ends as well as means
  • Labour power and nature logically predate, and were used to form, capital
  • Technological knowledge is a factor of production

Ad (2): I don’t know whether n-Learning in this context stands for nano-Learning (constantly feeding mini chunks of learning on the job) or networked learning (network over the internet to learn from each other – blogs, wikis, mail etc.). Neither could I find a proper definition of S-Learning. Generally it seem to stand for supervised learning. Which can take place most commonly when training Neural Networks, and sometimes on the job.
Sorry – later on in the article Bredillet clarifies the lingo: N-Learning = Neoclassical Learning = Knowledge is cumulative; and S-Learning = Schumpeterian Learning = creative gales of destruction.

Ad (3): Convention Theory (as explained in this paper) debunks the notion that price is the best coordination mechanism in the economy. It states that there are collective coordination mechanisms and not only bilateral contracts, whose contingencies can be foreseen and written down.
Furthermore Convention Theory assumes Substantive Rationality of actors, radical uncertainty (no one knows the probability of future events), reflexive reasoning (‚I know that you know, that I know‘). Thus Convention Theory assumes Procedural Rationality of actors – actors judge by rational decision processes & rules and not by rational outcome of decisions.
These rules or convention for decision-making are sought by actors in the market. Moreover the theory states that

  • Through conventions knowledge can be economised (e.g., mimicking the behaviour of other market participants);
  • Conventions are a self-organising tools, relying on confidence in the convention
  • Four types of coordination exist – market, industry, domestic, civic

[Start reading again if you’re just interested in the application of the method.]

In the article Bredillet then continues to discuss the elements of the MAP meta model:

  • Project situations (entrepreneurial = generating a new position, advantage) vs. operations situations (= exploiting existing position, advantage)
  • Organisational ecosystem [as depicted on the right of my drawing]
  • Learning dynamics and praxis, with the three cornerstones of knowledge management, organisational learning, and learning organisation

Thus learning in this complex, dynamic ecosystem with its different foci of learning should have three goals – (1) individual learning, e.g., acquire Prince 2/PMP methodology; (2) Team learning, e.g., acquire team conventions; and (3) organisational learning, e.g., acquire new competitive position.

The MAP model itself consists of the several project management theories and concepts [theories are depicted on the left side of my drawing], the concepts included are

  • Strategic Management
  • Risk Management
  • Programme Management
  • Prospective Analysis
  • Projects vs. Operations
  • Ecosystem project/context
  • Trajectory of projects/lifecycles
  • Knowledge Management – processes & objects; and individual & organisational level
  • Systems thinking, dynamics
  • Organisational design
  • Systems engineering
  • Modelling, object language, systems man model
  • Applied sciences
  • Organisational Learning (single loop vs. double loop, contingency theory, psychology, information theory, systems dynamics)
  • Individual learning – dimensions (knowledge, attitudes, aptitudes) and processes (practical, emotional, cognitive)
  • Group and team learning, communities of practice
  • Leadership, competences, interpersonal aspects
  • Performance management – BSC, intellectual capital, intangible assets, performance assessments, TQM, standardisation

The praxeology of these can be broken down into three steps, each with its own set of tools:

  1. System design – social system design (stakeholder analysis, interactions matrices), technical system design (logical framework, e.g., WBS matrix, and logical system tree)
  2. System analysis – risk analysis (technical/social risk analysis/mapping), scenario analysis (stakeholder variables & zones)
  3. System management – scheduling, organisation & planning, strategic control

As such, Bredillet describes the MAP method trajectory as

  1. Strategic choice with a) conception, b) formulation
  2. Tactical alternatives with a) alternatives analysis and evaluation, b) decision
  3. Realisation with a) implementation, b) reports and feedback, c) transition into operations, c) post-audit review

In praxis the learning takes part in form of simulations, where real life complex situations have to be solved using the various concepts, methods, tools, and techniques (quantitative and psycho-sociological) which are included in the MAP-method. To close the reflective learning loop at the end two meta-reports have to be written – use of methods and team work, and how learning is transferred to the workplace. Bredillet says that with this method his students developed case studies, scenario analysis, corporate strategy evaluation, and tools for strategic control.

Project portfolio management – There’s more to it than what management enacts (Blichfeldt & Eskerodt, 2008)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

Project portfolio management – There’s more to it than what management enacts (Blichfeldt & Eskerodt, 2008)

Blichfeldt, Bodil Stilling; Eskerod, Pernille: Project portfolio management – There’s more to it than what management enacts; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 4, pp. 357-365.

Project Portfolio Management in Theory consists of

  • Initial screening, selection, and prioritisation of proposed projects
  • Concurrent re-prioritisation
  • Allocation and re-allocation of resources

These activities are free of any value. Blichfeldt & Eskerodt analyse the reality of project portfolio management to find out if it does any good to the organisations it is used in.

In reality they find that project portfolio management is merely a battle for resources and that portfolios consist of way to many projects to be practically manageable. He finds two distinct categories of projects in a portfolio – (1) enacted projects and (2) hidden projects.

Among the enacted projects are typically the new product developments, the classic project, trimmed for successful launch of a new cash cow. But in this enacted project category there are also the larger renewal projects. The larger renewal projects are usually not directly linked to the demand side, their primary aim is to enhance internal activities and not customer value, and some of them cut across departments. Overall the large renewal projects are not as well managed as product development projects – they lack experience, have a low priority, and lack structure, reviews etc.

The second category are the hidden projects. Usually bottom-up initiatives, departments or even single persons start during their work hours, or in specifically allocated time to pursue innovative projects of own interest.

Blichfeldt & Eskerod recommend to enact more projects. Manage the larger renewal projects in a more structured way, and include the hidden projects into the portfolio. If they drain resources they must be managed. Without destroying the creativity and innovation that usually come from these grass-root projects, organisations should allocate resources to a pool of loosely-controlled resources. Unenacted projects should be allowed to draw resources from this pool, with minimal administrative burden.

The PM_BOK Code (Whitty & Schulz, 2006)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

 The PM_BOK Code (Whitty & Schulz, 2006)

Whitty, S. J.; Schulz, M. F.: The PM_BOK Code; in: The Proceedings of 20th IPMA World Congress on Project Management, Vol. 1 (2008) , pp. 466 – 472.

The bold claim of this article is that project management is more about appearance than productivity.
Whitty & Schulz argue that our hard-wiring for memes and the western culture have turned project management (in it’s special representation in the PMI’s PMBOK) into a travesty.
The western culture is synonymous with the spirit of capitalism combined with the meme of the corporation, which has been disected many times most noteably by Achbar, Abbott & Bakan.

The authors compare the everyday madness of projects to nothing else but theatres. Keeping up appearances. They draw similarities between the theatrical stage – think meeting rooms and offices, costumes – think dark suits or funny t-shirts, scripts – think charts and status reports, props – think powerpoint, and audience – think co-workers and managers. Whitty & Schulz that the big show we put up everyday is to appear in control and successful.

Project management is the ideal way to represent western culture. Being flexible, ready for change, constantly exploiting new opportunities.
On the flip side, the authors argue, that project management kills creativity and democracy. It fractionalises the workforce, thus driving down productivity.

The way out of this predicament is to „reform […] the PMBOK® Guide version of PM in a way that elieves practitioners from performativity, and opens project work up to more creative and democratic processes“ (p. 471).

Making a difference? Evaluating an innovative approach to the project management Centre of Excellence in a UK government department (O’Leary & Williams, 2008)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

Making a difference? Evaluating an innovative approach to the project management Centre of Excellence in a UK government department (O’Leary & Williams, 2008)

O’Leary, Tim; Williams, Terry: Making a difference? Evaluating an innovative approach to the project management Centre of Excellence in a UK government department; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 5, pp. 556-565.

The UK has rolled out the ambitious programme of setting-up IT Centres of Excellence in all its departments. Focal point of these Centres of Excellence are Programme Offices.

The role of these Programme Offices has been defined as: Reporting, Recovering & Standardising.
The objectives for the programme offices are monitoring and reporting the status of the IT initiatives in the department, and implementing a structured life cycle methodology. This methodology ties in with a stage-gate framework that needs to be introduced. Additionally hit-teams of delivery managers have been set-up to turn-around ailing projects.

O’Leary and Williams find that the interventions seem to work successfully, whereas the reporting and standardisation objective has yet to be fulfilled. Moreover the authors analyse the root causes for this success. They found that the basis of success was:

  • Administrative control of department’s IT budget
  • Leadership of IT director
  • Exploitation of project management rhetoric
  • Quality of delivery managers

Building knowledge in projects – A practical application of social constructivism to information systems development (Jackson & Klobas, 2008)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

Building knowledge in projects - A practical application of social constructivism to information systems development (Jackson & Klobas, 2008)

Jackson, Paul; Klobas, Jane: Building knowledge in projects – A practical application of social constructivism to information systems development; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 4, pp. 329-337.

Jackson & Klobas describe the constructivist model of knowledge sharing and thus organisational learning. This classical model describes knowledge sharing in organisations as a constant cylcle of

  • Creating personal knowledge
  • Sharing newly created personal knowledge = Externalisation
  • Communication knowledge = Internalisation
  • Acquiring other peoples‘ knowledge = Learning

This cylcle includes the facilitating steps of Objectivation (=creating organisational knowledge), Legitimation (=authorising knowledge), and reification (=hardening knowledge) between externalisation and internalisation.

Jackson & Klobas argue that IT project failure can be explained using this model. The authors outline and discuss three failure factors – (1) lack of personal knowledge, (2) inability to externalise knowledge, and (3) lack of communication.

Project leadership in multi-project settings – Findings from a critical incident study (Kaulio, 2008)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

 Project leadership in multi-project settings - Findings from a critical incident study (Kaulio, 2008)

Kaulio, Matti A.: Project leadership in multi-project settings – Findings from a critical incident study; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 4, pp. 338-347.

Kaulio asked project leaders, who operate in a multi-project environment about critical incidents in their last projects. The idea of critical incidents is, that as soon as a participant remembers the critical incident it must have some importance. Ideally it then is followed by a blueprint analysis followed by measuring the criticality is measured on each contact point. Kaulio focusses only on the elicitation of the critical incidents, without doing the triple-loop of the original research concept. The author shows the frequency of critical incidents happening:

  • Technical difficulties
  • Dyadic leadership
  • Group dynamics
  • Consultant relations
  • Client relations
  • Peer relations
  • Project adjustments
  • Re-prioritisations
  • Liked dyadic-group processes
  • Formation of project
  • Court decisions
  • Dependencies
  • Requirements specification

Kaulio then maps these critical incidents according to the Locus of Control (internal vs. external) and whether they are a Management or a Leadership issue. Thus he argues  most of the critical incidents can be tied back to internal project leadership:

Locus of Control External
  • Project adjustment
  • Court decision
  • Consultant relations
  • Client relations
  • Peer relations
  • Formation of project
  • Dependencies
  • Requirements specification
  • Dyadic leadership
  • Group dynamics
  • Linked dyadic-group processes
  • Technical difficulties
  • Re-prioritisation
Management Leadership

The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms: A conceptual model (Geraldi, 2008)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

 The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms: A conceptual model (Geraldi, 2008)

Geraldi, Joana G.: The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms – A conceptual model; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 4, pp. 348-356.

Geraldi takes a deeper look into multi-project settings at the ‚Edge of Chaos‘. Geraldi describes the Edge of Chaos as that fine line between chaos and order. Wikipedia (I know I shouldn’t cite it) has something else to say about the Edge of Chaos:

In the sciences in general, the phrase has come to refer to a metaphor that some physical, biological, economic and social systems operate in a region between order and either complete randomness or chaos, where the complexity is maximal. The generality and significance of the idea, however, has since been called into question by Melanie Mitchell and others. The phrase has also been borrowed by the business community and is sometimes used inappropriately and in contexts that are far from the original scope of the meaning of the term.

Geraldi defines the Edge of Chaos as a match between complexity and flexibility.  Complexity can either be located within faith or facts. Flexibility, on the other hand, is either high or low, whilst it is measured along the dimensions of scope + goals, processes + tools, and roles + staffing. Geraldi argues that only two of these archetypes represent a fit (highlighted below):

Complexity Faith Bureaucratisation of Chaos Creative Reflective
Fact Mechanic-Structured Chaotification of order
Low High

Graphical Representation of the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Dienstag, Oktober 21st, 2008

Poster (black, horizontal)

Today I woke up very early and created these beautiful pictures summarising all keywords from the last 5 years in the International Journal of Project Management and the Journal of Project Management.

In my lunch break another thought struck me – you need something on that bare wall you have here. From there on it was a short step to run the PMI’s PMBOK Guide 3rd Ed. through and after a lot of tweaking, it created some beautiful posters, reminding me what the PMP is all about. I use to print the poster on demand – I am quite satisfied with Lulu the largest poster measuring 23″ x 36″ (61cm x 91 cm) comes for just $39.95, excluding shipping.

The posters can be ordered at my Lulu Store.

And here are all of the designs I put online:

Poster (white, horizontal - 2nd Version)

Poster (black, horizontal)Poster (white, horizontal)

Poster (black, vertical)Poster (white, vertical)

Creative Commons License
These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

What’s up with Project Management Research?

Dienstag, Oktober 21st, 2008

One of my other interests is data visualisation. When I started my work on this project, I wanted to get a quick overlook of what Project Management Research really is about. After I collected all author-given keywords from all articles in the International Journal of Project Management and the Journal of Project Management of the last 5 years (2003 and onwards) I created these Tag Clouds.This morning I stumbled across about a blog entry on information aestehetics written by Martin Wattenberg, the group manager of IBM Visual Communication lab. After some more random klicks I landed on, Wordle is the aestethically more pleasing cousin of the cloud tag and I started redoing my earlier excercise to generate some sleek new summaries:

International Journal of Project Management 2003-2008

Wordle I - IJPM Wordle Keywords International Journal of Project Management 2003-2008

Journal of Project Management 2003-2007

Wordle of Keywords from the Journal of Project Management 2003-2007  Wordle of Keywords from the Journal of Project Management 2003-2007

Keywords published in International Journal of Project Management and Journal of Project Management 2003-2008

Wordle of all keywords published in International Journal of Project Management and Journal of Project Management 2003-2008 Wordle of all keywords published in International Journal of Project Management and Journal of Project Management 2003-2008

These are the links to the original graphics in the Wordle gallery – these are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA:

Relating, reflecting and routinizing: Developing project competence in cooperation with others (Söderlund et al., 2008)

Montag, Oktober 20th, 2008

Relating, reflecting and routinizing: Developing project competence in cooperation with others (Söderlund et al., 2008)

Söderlund, Jonas; Vaagaasar, Anne Live; Andersen, Erling S.: Relating, reflecting and routinizing – Developing project competence in cooperation with others; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 5, pp. 517-526.

Söderlund et al. explore the question – How do organisations build project management capabilities? They analyse a focal project to show how the specific competence, project management, is build in an ever changing environment. As such comptence creation is situated and recursive.

The authors use a process view to explain the capabilities building. The process is three-fold – (1) Relating, (2) Reflecting, and (3) Routinising.

First step – Relating to expand the resource base, in this step the organisation

  • Acknowledges the situated character of project competence
  • Expands the resource base, which builds social capital
  • Engages in boundary spanning activites to cooperate with stakeholders and act against de-coupling, which decreases the overall resources needed for the authority system as coordination mechanism
  • Creates interdependencies

Second step – Reflecting to improve use of resource base, in this step the organisation highlights actions of importance for institutionalising a common frame of reference and stimulating shared reflection in the project. As such it:

  • Improves the resource base
  • Engages in problem solving
  • Shifts from exploitation based to experimentation learning, which re-uses previous processes, and recycles old solutions
  • Detects system-wide errors & generates new associations

Third step – Routinising to secure resource base and improve relational activity, in this step the organisation tries to ensure the best use of its resource base. Therefore it

  • Codifies new knowledge
  • Triggers reflecting
  • Exploits what is known
  • Emphasises and builds project-level comptence

Images as action instruments in complex projects (Taxén & Lilliesköld, 2008)

Montag, Oktober 20th, 2008

Images as action instruments in complex projects (Taxén & Lilliesköld, 2008)

Taxén, Lars; Lilliesköld, Joakim: Images as action instruments in complex projects; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 5, pp. 527-536.

Images are quite powerful. I hate motivational posters which a distant corporate HQ decorates every meeting room with, but I once saw the department strategy visualised by these folks, they include all employees and the group dynamic is unbelievable. Later on they cleaned the images, blew them up, and posted them around the company – of course, meaningless for an outsider but a powerful reminder for everyone who took part.

Taxén & Lilliesköld analyse the images typically used in project management. They find that these common images, such as PERT/CPM, Gantt charts, or WBS are increasingly difficult to use in complex projects, in this case the authors look into a large-scale IT project.

Based on Activity Domain Theory they develop alternative images better suited for complex projects. Activity Domain Theory, however, underlines that all tasks on a project (= each activity domain) have a motive, fulfils needs, modifies objects, and has actors. Outcomes are produced by activity domains and are at the same time prerequisites for activity domains. Activity domains have activity modalities, which can be either manifested as resources or as communal meaning. These activity modalities are

  • Contextualisation = situation of human action
  • Spatialisation = need for spatial orientation in human action
  • Temporalisation = need for certain order in human action
  • Stabilisation = need for certain rules and norms in human action
  • Transition = need for interaction between activity domains

Useful images, the authors argue, need to fulfil these needs while being situated in the context of the activity. Traditional images focus on optimisation and control, rather than on coordination and action. Thus alternate images need to focus on dependencies and integration; on value comprehensibility and informality over formality and rigour.

Alternative images suited for complex project management are

  • Anatomies – showing modules, work packages and their dependencies of the finished product, e.g., functional node diagrams
  • Dependency diagrams – showing the incremental assembly of the product over a couple of releases, e.g. increment plan based on dependencies (a feature WBS lack)
  • Release matrices – showing the flow of releases, how they fit together, and when which functionality becomes available, e.g., integration plan
  • Information flow diagrams – showing the interfaces between modules, e.g. DFD

Stakeholder salience in global projects (Aaltonen et al., 2008)

Montag, Oktober 20th, 2008

 Stakeholder salience in global projects (Aaltonen et al., 2008)

Aaltonen, Kirsi; Jaako, Kujala; Tuomas, Oijala: Stakeholder salience in global projects; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 5, pp. 509-516.

In their 1997 article, Mitchell et al. define stakeholder salience as „the degree to which managers give priority to competing stakeholder claims“. Furthermore, Mitchell at al. describe how the salience of a stakeholder is defined by three characteristics – (1) the stakeholder’s power to influence the firm, (2) the legitimacy of the stakeholder’s relationship with the firm, and (3) the urgency of the stakeholder’s claim on the firm.

Aaltonen et al. use the case study of a construction project of a paper-mill in South America to outline what strategies Stakeholders use to influence their salience. In line with typical case studies of construction projects Aaltonen’s stakeholders are environmentalist groups trying to influence the project. [I personally think based on my experience what Aaltonen et al. describe is also true for all sorts of projects, just if I think back to my organisational change and IT projects where we had workers‘ unions and councils as equally hard to manage stakeholders.] The authors observed a couple of strategies used:

  • Direct/indirect withholding strategy
  • Resource building strategy
  • Coalition building strategy
  • Conflict escalation strategy
  • Credibility building strategy
  • Direct action strategy

As per Mitchell’s definition these strategies aim to increase influencing power, legitimacy, and/or urgency. The tactics used to increase power were

  • Affect & influence parties, that provide resources, e.g., lobbying financiers and politicians
  • Affect the resource supply directy, e.g., laws and policies that prohibit imports
  • Build lobbying alliances, e.g., between environmentalist groups and unions
  • Recruit individuals with networks to important resource providers, e.g., ex-regulators, governmental workers, activists

The tactics used to increase legitimacy were

  • Initiate legal and political conflict, e.g., court action, political support
  • Inform the public about impacts of the project, thus damaging reputation of the project and increasing legitimacy
  • Signal illegitimacy of project, e.g., boycotts, counter impact studies
  • Attack supporters, e.g., showing them being partial, exposing lobbyists
  • Use other projects as showcases, e.g., using abandoned projects and withdrawls to show the illigitimacy of the project

The tactic used to increase urgency was signalling urgency, time-sensitivity, and criticality of decisions, e.g., by staging direct actions, protests, sit-ins, road blocks.

Tailored task forces: Temporary organizations and modularity (Waard & Kramer, 2008)

Montag, Oktober 20th, 2008

Tailored task forces: Temporary organizations and modularity (Waard & Kramer, 2008)

Waard, Erik J. de; Kramer, Eric-Hans: Tailored task forces – Temporary organizations and modularity; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 5, pp. 537-546.

As a colleague once put it: Complex projects should be organised like terrorist organisations – Autonomous cells of highly motivated individuals.

Waard & Kramer do not analyse projects but it’s fast paced and short lived cousin – the task force. The task force is THE blueprint for an temporary organisation. The authors found that the more modularised the parent company is, the easier it is to set-up a task force/temporary organisations. Waard & Kramer also found that the temporary organisations are more stable if set-up by modular parent companies. They explain this with copying readily available organisational design principles and using well excercised behaviours to manage these units.

The more interesting second part of the article describes how a company can best set-up task forces. Waard & Kramer draw their analogy from Modular Design.

„Building a complex system from smaller subsystems that are independently designed yet function together“

The core of modular design is to establish visible design rules and hidden design parameters. The authors describe that rules need to be in place for (1) architecture, (2) interfaces, and (3) standards. The remaining design decisions is left in the hands of the task force, which is run like a black box.
In this case Architecture defines which modules are part of the system and what each modules functionality is. Interface definition lays out how these modules interact and communication. Lastly, the Standards define how modules are tested and how their performance is measured.

Stakeholder analysis in projects: Challenges in using current guidelines in the real world (Jepsen & Eskerod, in press)

Montag, Oktober 20th, 2008

Stakeholder analysis in projects: Challenges in using current guidelines in the real world (Jepsen & Eskerod, in press)Jepsen, Ann Lund; Eskerod, Pernille: Stakeholder analysis in projects – Challenges in using current guidelines in the real world; in: International Journal of Project Management, in press. the article has been published in:  International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 27 (2009), No. 4, pp. 335-343.In this small group experiment the authors presented four project managers with the task to analyse their stakeholders. The participants needed to identify, characterise, and decide how to influence stakeholders. To characterise them the project managers defined which contributions they needed from each stakeholder, what they would use a reward for contributing, and which power relationship linked manager and stakeholder.The participating managers (all managing renewal projects) identified a list of challenges they faced during this task

  • Comprehensiveness – How do I ensure that I identified all stakeholders? Is my list exhaustive?
  • Simplification – Can I treat some of them as a group?
  • Foresight – How can I ensure I specified all needed contributions upfront?
  • Biases – Ethical dilemmas, prejudices, generalisations about stakeholders
  • Tools – Suggested questionnaires are not practical, it’s hard to gather focus groups

Nevertheless Jepsen & Eskerod found two approaches that worked quite well – (1) Meetings with groups of stakeholders and (2) Initiating two-way interactions and discussions with stakeholders.Involve them early, involve them constantly!