Archive for the ‘Megaprojects’ Category

Research Featured in Harvard Business Review

Donnerstag, Juli 26th, 2012

After 2 years of researching ICT projects the on-going research has been picked up by the Harvard Business Review and is on the cover of their September 2011 issue.

„Why your IT projects may be riskier than you think?“

By now, I collected a database of nearly 1,500 IT projects – in short we argue that the numbers in the hotly debated Standish Report are wrong, but their critics don’t get it quite right either. We found that while IT projects perform reasonably well on average the risk distribution has very fat tails in which a lot of Black Swan Events hide. 1 in 6 IT projects turned into a Black Swan – an event that can take down companies and cost executives their jobs.

Enjoy the read!

More background reading on the HBR article can be found in this working paper.

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.

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

Best Project Management and Systems Engineering Practices in the Preacquisition Phase for Federal Intelligence and Defense Agencies (Meier, 2008)

Dienstag, August 12th, 2008

 Best Project Management and SE Practices

Meier, Steven R.: Best Project Management and Systems Engineering Practices in the Preacquisition Phase for Federal Intelligence and Defense Agencies; in Project Management Journal, Vol. 39 (2008), No. 1, pp. 59-71.

Scope Creep! Uncontrolled growth in programs, especially public acquisitions is nothing new. [I highly suspect that we only look down on public projects because private companies are much better in hiding their failures.] Meier analyses the root causes for scope creep in intelligence and defense projects and proposes counter actions to be taken.

The root causes for creeping scope are

  • overzealous advocacy
  • immature technology
  • lack of corporate technology road maps
  • requirements instability
  • ineffective acquisition strategies, i.e. no incentives to stick to the budget
  • unrealistic baselines and a high reliance on contractor baselines
  • inadequate systems engineering, e.g. no concept of operations, system requirements document, statement of work, request for proposal, contact data requirements list
  • workforce issues, e.g. high staff turnover, no PMO

Meier’s remedies for this predicament are quite obvious. Have a devil’s inquisitor or a third party review to get rid of the optimism bias. Wait until technology maturity is achieved or factor in higher contingencies. Set investment priorities. Put incentives into the contracts. Estimate own costs prior to RfP. Follow systems engineering standards, e.g. INCOSE’s. Manage your workforce.

Public-Private Partnership – Elements for a Project-Based Management Typology (Mazouz et al., 2008)

Dienstag, August 12th, 2008

 PPP Typology

Mazouz, Bachir; Facal, Joseph; Viola, Jean-Michel: Public-Private Partnership – Elements for a Project-Based Management Typology; in: Journal of Project Management, Vol. 39 (2008), No. 2, pp. 98-110.

In this article Mazouz et al. develop a typology for public-private-partnerships. They span a matrix along the two dimensions of proximity of target and capacity to generate projects. The proximity „refers to the position of the public organisation in relation to its target clientèle“.

  1. Situational Partnership (close distant, high capacity)
  2. Symbiotic Partnership (close distant, low capacity)
  3. Elementary Partnership (high distance, high capacity)
  4. Forward-looking Partnership (high distance, low capacity)

As the authors further point out a forward-looking partnership is most difficult to manage. This type is characterized by the public company being far away from my usual client base and a low capacity to generate future projects out of this PPP.
To manage these challenges Mazouz et al. recommend two distinct types of PPPs – contractual and relational PPP. A contractual PPP is best suited for well defined, measurable projects, based on management systems; whereas a relational PPP is best when tasks are continuously re-defined, the outcome is ambiguous, and the project is based on individuals.

Project Management Practice, Generic or Contextual – Reality Check (Besner & Hobbs, 2008)

Dienstag, August 12th, 2008

Tool usage in different types of projects

Besner, Claude; Hobbs, Brian: Project Management Practice, Generic or Contextual – Reality Check; in: Project Management Journal, Vol. 39 (2008), No. 1, pp. 16-33.

Besner & Hobbs investigate the use of project management tools. In a broad survey among 750 practitioners, they try to find patterns when different tools are applied to manage a project. They authors show that tool usage depends on the factors

  • Organisational maturity level of project management
  • Project similarity and familiarity
  • Level of uncertainty in project definition
  • Internal customer vs. external customer
  • Project size and duration
  • Product type

Among these factors the last one is the most interesting. Besner & Hobbs grouped their sample into three legs according to product type a) engineering & construction, b) IT, and c) business services.
So where do IT projects fall short compared to their counterparts in Engineering and Construction?
One area is the vendor management (bidding documents, conferences, evaluations) which is a strong point in E&C but a weak one in IT. Another area is the cost planning (financial measurements, cost data bases, top-down/bottom-up estimation, software for estimating costs) and in execution IT projects show lesser usage of Earned Value Techniques and Value Analysis.
[Fair enough – I do think – the intangibility of IT projects makes it difficult to apply these concepts unbiased and meaningfully].

Large-scale projects, self-organizing and meta-rules: towards new forms of management (Jolivet & Navarre, 1996)

Montag, August 11th, 2008

New Approach to Manage Large-Scale Projects

Jolivet, F.; Navarre, C.: Large-scale projects, self-organizing and meta-rules: towards new forms of management; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 14 (1996), No. 5, pp. 265-271.

This is one of the few articles dealing with the specifics of large-scale projects. Jolivet & Navarre argue that the traditional approach of pyramidal organisation, centralised control, standardisation of procedures, and reactive management are not suited to successfully execute a large-scale project.

Instead the authors recommend a new approach of autonomy, subsidiarity, and cellular division which is characterized by

  • Maximal individualisation
  • Differentiation of management styles and use of central meta-rules
  • Use of autonomous, self-organising teams
  • Central performance audits

They argue that large scale projects can regain speed if decision power is shifted to people on the ground and is not centrally bundled which creates a bottleneck around the central management team.  All  (sub)-projects in their case study are conducted along a specific and limited set of 12 principles which are all correlated with project success. In all other areas small scale teams have full decisional autonomy.

Managing public–private megaprojects: Paradoxes, complexity, and project design (van Marrewijk et al., in press)

Montag, Juli 14th, 2008

Megaproject Culture (1) Megaproject Culture (2)

van Marrewijk, Alfons; Clegg, Stewart R.; Pitsis, Tyrone S.; Veenswijk, Marcel: Managing public–private megaprojects: Paradoxes, complexity, and project design; in: International Journal of Project Management, in press.

Marrewijk et al. compare the project designs, daily practices, project cultures and management approaches in two case studies. The authors explore how actors on these megaprojects make sense of uncertainty, ambiguity and risk. They show that project design and project cultures influence cooperations between key players on the project.

They argue that each project has a specific project culture with subcultures, conflicts, powers, and cultural ambiguity. Thus making the staff of a project a modern tribe distinguishing themselves from the rest of the working world (and the parent corporation) via artifacts, practices, and values. Projects show multiple cultures, power relations, conflicts, and abnormalities just like any larger society. Post-Positivism research has shown the impact of the project culture on project’s success or failure. Unfortunately the authors found that megaprojects have a higher tendency than normal to develop a dysfunctional project culture.

Moreover Marrewijk et al. analyse the cultural strategies of change and the cultural forms, practices, and content themes found in their two megaproject case studies. Finally they outline how culture and project design influence a public-private partnership project. They conclude that there are 2 critical success factors on how to design a project organisation which can create a non-dysfunctional project culture.

  1. Design power relations between all players in the project in a way that balances these
  2. Design accountability in way that is NOT a zero-sum game and which serves the self-interest of all involved parties and individuals