Separating fish from fowl

a taxonomy of the project environment


A TAXONOMY HELPS CLARIFY our thinking by classifying things neatly into groups and subgroups based on their similarities and relationships. With that in mind, let's break down the effective project management environment into its components and the steps that support that component.

Effective project management relies on five components: Awareness, Organization, Processes, Tools and Training. Let's look at each one separately, first clearly describing the component and then defining the steps necessary to implement that component within your project environment.

Awareness. The discipline of project management succeeds if there is an awareness of its rudiments, of the benefits that its discipline brings to the organization, and of the expectations that management has of project management relative to other disciplines at work in the organization. To assure that this awareness exists, take the following steps:

Synthesize Management's Vision. Management must articulate their vision for project management within the organization. Is project management merely a data-gathering function necessary to disseminate the status of standalone work efforts that are under way? Or is project management the mandated mode by which all non-operational work is going to be conducted? There is quite a difference. Often management is not sure what their own vision of project management is without some assistance.

Disseminate Management's Vision. Once management has solidified in their own minds the role that project management will play in their organization, this vision must be documented and disseminated to everyone with a need to know. This can be done through a massive meeting, by functional managers in weekly staff meetings, via an executive memo, via the internal newsletter, and/or on video tapes playing in the cafeteria.

Establish the Discipline. Requiring proof that the discipline is being used is the only way to assure that project management is being applied consistently and correctly throughout the organization. Reports, scheduled status meetings and surprise briefings are ways to keep people mindful of doing business by using project management.


Maintain the Focus. As with many initiatives, the first few weeks or months after implementation all go well but the energy and focus dissipates as time passes. The last job within the Awareness component is to keep the focus and energy alive. This can be done by refresher memos, awards and recognition for good project work, or brown-bag lunches as a forum for continuous growth and learning. This is a time to be creative or the awareness of project management will die from neglect.

Organization. The organizational structures that support projects are different from the structures that support recurring, day-to-day operational efforts. Project management is driven by teams. Teams require a clear definition of the organizational structure in which they are expected to work. To define each company's own, unique organizational entity, follow these steps:

Re-evaluate and Solidify the Correct Structure. Evaluate the current structure under which projects are performed, analyze its effectiveness, reengineer the clustering of skill mixes, the reporting relationships and the differentiation of operational responsibilities versus project responsibilities.

Clarify Accountability and Authority. This is crucial. More mistakes are made not because people are unwilling to buy into the project management discipline, but because they are unclear of precisely what they will be held accountable for and specifically what authority they have to meet their accountabilities.

Develop Job Descriptions. That which is not written down is not real; therefore, the project management roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities must be documented for all to see and follow.

Set Up Reward Systems. These reward systems correlate with the job descriptions and are both tangible and intangible. Salary increases and possibly bonuses are tangible rewards; recognition and additional challenge are intangible rewards.

Position Career Development Plans. Each person deserves a tentative road map plotting where their career is going, how they are supposed to get there and what their management is going to do to support this plan. Career development plans consist of job expectations, tangible metrics that indicate success, and the specific advancement potential if these metrics are attained.

Processes. Project management is directed and facilitated by processes that codify how the project work is to be performed. There are two processes that support project management: Product Development (how to create the deliverable from the project); and Project Management (how to plan and control the Product Development process).

Product Development. The product development process delineates the tasks, their associated deliverables and the responsible parties. This detailed task list is unique for the development of all different products. The development process for a software product might be something like Perform Feasibility Study, Generate Requirements, Program, Test, Install; while the product development life cycle for an advertising campaign might be Conduct Market Survey, Correlate Data, Prepare Artwork, Test Market and Roll Out the Campaign. The Product Development process is the actual and unique work efforts required to move the project from start to finish.

Project Management. These possible processes provide the standards and procedures that aid in the management of the Product Development process. The Project Management processes include some or all of the following: Business Case Development, Prioritization of Projects, Project Time and Resource Planning, Project Schedule and Budget Tracking, Change Control, Risk Management and/or Post-project Closeout Evaluation. All these processes are integrated with the product life cycle and with the chosen project management scheduling tools.

Tools. In most cases, when we talk about tools, we are referring to automated software tools. Typical off-the-shelf scheduling software can be modified to integrate the Product Development processes and any or all of the Project Management processes, including forms, guidelines, archiving of historical metrics. Take the following steps to succeed in this component of the project management discipline:

Standardize to a Scheduling Tool. One tool, one reporting portfolio, one communication vehicle allows all parties to be comparing apples to apples and to be speaking the same language. We strongly recommend that only one scheduling tool be used (or two tools, a micro and a macro, which import and export data between them).

Integrate the Product Development Process in the Tool. Enter the detailed product tasks into the scheduling tool and make this model WBS mandatory as the starting point for all new projects.

Integrate the Project Management Processes (including forms) Into the tool. Customize the tool (to the degree possible) in order to provide guidance and reminders of the Project Management processes. Also use the tool as the repository for all the information concerning each project.

Standardize Report Outputs. One size report does not fit all; however, a standardized series of reports designed for specific audiences will assure consistent and meaningful communication.

Expand to a Suite of Software. Often just the scheduling tool is not adequate for the company's enterprise-wide requirements or for its information needs. Therefore, for this last step under the tools component, consider and implement add-on pieces of software, which will create a complete automated “project management system.”

Training. Project management requires the project players to possess its unique set of competencies, which are learned in and out of the classroom. Training is offering the correct skill training via the correct mode at the correct time.

Set Up Classroom Training. Determine if classroom training is necessary and, if so, what types of classes are appropriate. Classes that are appropriate might be Project Management Principles of Planning and Control, Application of Specific Processes such as Risk Management or Estimating, the Use of the Automated Tools, Working in Teams.

Acquire Self-Study Training. Self-study training, whether computer-based or paper-based, is used as a review and reinforcement of the skills learned in the classroom or as an alternative mode when geography, timing, or budgets cannot justify classroom training.

Position Performance Support. Be sure there is a mechanism in place to assure transfer of skills back to the workplace. Skills transfer may be as simple as providing all the functional managers of the students a guidebook that gives implementation direction or it may be as sophisticated as providing a software tool that allows the student to immediately apply the skills and competencies augmented by process, charts, graphs, checklists and worksheets in an automated environment back on the job.

THIS TAXONOMY SHOWS the components that need to be in place in order for project management to be successful in your environment. Awareness of the position, benefit and expectation of project management needs to be articulated and disseminated for all to understand. An organization structure with the appropriate job descriptions, reward systems and career plans needs to be put in place. Processes, both product development and project management, must be created so that everyone understands what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it. The correct tools (an optional component) should be given to the people who are accountable for performing the processes. The players in this project management environment need to be trained relative to the organization, the processes and the tools so that they contribute to the success of each project, but more important, to the discipline as a whole.

As you look at your current project management discipline, has your organization addressed each of the components and has each of the steps been taken to assure that project management is being built on a strong infrastructure? img


Joan Knutson is founder and president of Project Mentors, a San Francisco-based project management training and consulting firm. She can be reached at 415/9555777.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network · April 1997