Strategic model (SM) to manage unique character projects



Usually, Project Managers advise clients to manage their companies as projects rather than focusing on functional departments. This paper closes the circle, as it proposes to manage projects as companies.

Enterprises are the world best managed organizations. If a company is poorly managed, eventually it goes bankrupt or management is discharged. In the opposite, projects such as a building or a road may be badly managed; generating budget overruns or significant delays; and still, some time after the road or the building is delivered, nobody seems to care what happened with the management. It seems that poor performance in the management of companies has more serious consequences than for projects. Why not use its methods to be more serious?

The idea is to combine the systemic character of a project and its techniques, with the mechanisms to manage enterprises (Ashridge Model, culture of a company, etc.). Altogether it gives a sense to the process. One more thing: An enterprise is a project and a project is an enterprise.

The Stretegic Model (SM) starts from the definition of the Mission of the Project (MP) as the most important in the project's operation which is represented as a sword's hilt and to protect its needs, core functions and tool functions, represented as a hilt's grand hand. And to know how to proceed in each moment, the conducting wire is the “satisfaction” of the client, the “action's integration”, and “drive constant improvement”, altogether to assure the success of the operation.

The Mission of the Project (MP)

The Mission of the Project is the base of the model and the starting point to prepare the operation. To define it, the project is assimilated to a “company” with limited time horizon.

Thus, the project is understood like the set of actions to be undertaken by a group of actors with predefined methods and tools in order to obtain defined objectives. Therefore, the actors who integrate that “company”, that we call “project”, must jointly assume determined work procedures, a strategy and a “company culture” that allows for a coordinated work: the Mission of the Project (MP).

The Mission is based on the conceptualization of Ashridge's model for the mercantile companies (Exhibit 1) that, in our case, must be the conjunction of two missions that must be complementary at the least: the mission of what the client wants to get out of the project and the mission of the own manager or management team. The Mission should combine at least the client and the management wishes and it is composed of four axes: the object, the strategy, the values and the attitudes.

The Object defines what “needs to be done” and to determine them. In order to determine the Object, the project manager should analyze the client's wishes searching for the answers to: what, why, when, where, how much, how many, etc. In this context, the “client” must include all the users, not just the direct client who is the first user, and it gives a wide knowledge about what really needs to be done. It's necessary to add to the knowledge about the client and what the manager wants to obtain in that project for himself, its team or its company. Moreover, it is desirable to find out the wishes of other actors such as the contractors, designers, public agencies and other stakeholders.

Mission of the Project

Exhibit 1. Mission of the Project

The project strategy starts from the analysis of the existing situation including the “comparison” with similar projects and tries to find out the best and the worst thing to do. The analysis includes the study of strong and weak points of the situation: client's wishes, setting, competitors, time, objective budget, designers, management team, contractors, involved agencies, etc.

The strategy approaches some objectives that are necessary to define in a most concrete and clear way. The objectives may be grouped into internal areas of the management team (team training, economic results of the project, time, etc.) and external which are relevant to the client (term, objective budget, quality, etc.), to other actors (marketing objective, economical results,…) that must be compatible with those internal of the client.

In the strategy, the manager proposes determined actions to carry out the objectives, taking care that those actions that affect the client must be agreed on with him; and in the suitable cases, that agree with their own designer. The definition of the actions should include the human, technical, or economical necessary resources. In that way, it will be able to evaluate the viability of the reach of the project. The difficulty can already be intuited, since, probably, there are other actors who, “de facto”, look for incompatible objectives with those of the client.

In order for the human team - the project, client, designer, manager, contractors' actors, etc, to work in coordination with a common teleology, it is necessary that they share a common set of “values” that will act as the principles on which that work is based: more or less promptness, more or less confidence, severity, more or less formality, etc.

Once these are defined, and like its consequence, the team will act through certain attitudes that arise in a continued way in all work relations: different forms to have the meetings, data presentation, reports, etc. The attitudes are the specific ways of how the work relations are developed.

Jointly, the values and the attitudes conform what is referred to as the organization's “philosophy of a company”. In this case, it would be the “philosophy of the project”. This philosophy will need, at least, to be shared by all or most of the actors involved in the project in order that things will go well.

To find objectives shared by all and a philosophy of common work are, without a doubt, a good principle to initiate the operation. The MP looks like a sword's hilt with its protection represented by the core and tool's functions.

Core Functions (CF)

The core functions (Exhibit 2) are the main functions or activities that the manager must promote, organize, or plan. The list can be more or less extensive, but referring to projects of unique character (UP), the most common are:

  • Supply Management (SM) by means of which one obtains the necessary human resources, equipment and material needed for the construction of the UP (Unit Project and Built).
  • Design Management (DM), through which the manager assures that the project outcome -artefact or object that is projecting (UP) – performs according to the different requirements including functionality, aesthetics, economics, etc.
  • License Management (LM), answering to the need to have all the tools and legal approvals which allow the beginning of the exploitation. The manager will have to control and promote the preparation of precise documents.
  • Risk Management (RM), constantly analyzing the risks that the project, the environment or the performances of all or each one of the actors cause and involve the completion of the objectives, proposing measures that get round, eradicate or lessen it.
  • Time Management (TM) for the time control of the different activities in the work breakdown structure (WBS) of the project.
  • Cost Management (CM) that will try to maintain the cost of the UP within the limits defined by the objective budget, involving with it the rest of the actors.
  • Corporeal Management (CORM), to understand the meaning is necessary to clarify and differentiate the terms “construction” versus “corporification”. Really, deal with the control, the coordination, and management of the plans that allow materializing the “solution” that it has been anticipated to solve the conflict or to give form to the “idea”, object of the project (corporification) and not simply to assemble materials and equipment (construction).
Strategic Model (SM) to Manage Unique Character Projects

Exhibit 2. Strategic Model (SM) to Manage Unique Character Projects

- Convergent Quality Management (CQM), creating and impelling a frame of procedures, attitudes and actions between all the actors so that “to do the things always well” it is not an exception, and it's necessary that all of this converges with the reasonable fulfilling of all the actor's objectives.

- Environmental Management (EM) definitively incorporated to the set of core functions, also in which one talks about the material equipment used as well as the consequences of the function exercise that develops the UP. The base of the work to develop goes in the line to try the operation sustainability.

- Specific Objectives Management (SOM), they are the non usual and specific ones for each project, as they can be commercial, research, training objectives, etc.

Tool Functions (TF)

To carry out the CF (Exhibit 2), the manager will start with a process of creating a “tool functions” set (TF) understood like “arms” that practically allow the access to obtain the CF. The most well-known and important are:

  • Quality Plan (QP) is already understood as a part of all the projects and therefore, it tries to promote a performance form that guarantees a standard and recognized quality in the performances of all the actors.
  • Communication and Documentation Management (CDM), which proposes and canalizes all the documents and information channels needed so that the actors are aware of what they need to know of each other, in order to execute their work in the best conditions. The CDM exceeds the pure function of “information” in order to transform itself into “communication” with a biunivocal sense that eliminates the idea of: to “inform to justify”.
  • Planning Management (PM) which uses the different methods from computer planning programs (….).
  • The Procedure Manual (PM) gathers up the procedures that apply to the project: the practical items necessary to reflect a management model, which bases the design of the procedures on a simple scheme that is easy to read and follow. The complications usually make them unattainable and, therefore, useless. The MP gathers the set of “practical forms to act” and allows that each actor has, for the most important aspects of the process (decisions, representation, delivery of equipment, etc.), more security of their initiatives and answers.
  • Organization and Resources Management (ORM) which is organized in time, amount and form to obtain a reasonably common teleology that allows obtaining the common objectives. This is one of the most controversial aspects because, in practice, it is difficult, but not impossible, to obtain. Nevertheless, that is the challenge of a manager.
  • Value Architecture & Engineering (VAE) that the manager will have to carry out constantly and to suggest that others follow it, actively collaborating with the client and the designer to obtain the maxim function with the minimum cost
  • Simultaneous Architecture & Engineering (SAE), which is keeping watch because the UP will be the most “suitable for building”, it is to say within the limits of the reasoning as much in cost as on time.

The Conducting Wire

The systemic planning needs to achieve the success and all the actions have a conducting wire that makes possible apparently unconnected actions which have a common teleology and are not distorting in relation to which is “really” tried (Exhibit 2).

In the described model, the conducting wire is formed by:

  • Client's satisfaction, an unavoidable and fundamental basis which is no more than the direct application of the service concept that must reign all managers' actions. Client's wishes are the clear and only justification for the “job” and, therefore, all the manager's actions must be guided by that premise.
  • Drive constant improvement that leads the manager to look for the best one for the actors to use in the project. The manager can not be discouraged; on the contrary, he must be alert to avoid that the required pressure on the rest of actors diminishes, so appearance of errors or quality reduction is discerned.
  • The integration of the actions of all the actors, like a paradigm of a manager duty, which allows that all have a positive justification (Exhibit 3).

Really, all CF and TF that the manager puts into practice always have a constant reference, the conducting wire. If, in some cases, the manager has a doubt of which he must do, of several possibilities, he must take care and remember the conducting wire and be asked which of the possibilities are agreed upon; it will be the one that better guarantees the success of the operation.

The project integrated management and the “roles” of the involved actors

Exhibit 3. The project integrated management and the “roles” of the involved actors


The model is complete and especially suitable for those projects that need a management because its inherent complexity, volume, or some special characteristics. The adoption of this scheme guarantees not only the achievement of what the client really wants to a higher degree, which is the justification of the beginning of the project, but also that all the actors work in better intellectual conditions, more motivated and coordinated; circumstances that to a great extent lessen the negative consequences that the state of “constant pressure” produces in the actors for a good part of the projects.

The SM model looks like a sword with a hilt that must be grasped in the hand which is protected with the Core and Tool Functions, as a hand guard, bringing the success to the project, as a blade, using a conducting wire represented by a drive for constant improvement, the actions integration, and the client satisfaction.


M. Serer. (2001) Project integrated management. Catalonia, Spain: UPC: Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

©2005, Marcos Serer Figueroa
Originally published as a part of the 2005 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Edinburgh, Scotland



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