Forms of Project Management

Several different forms of project management have been identified and each of them raises their own unique issues with respect project management techniques and cooperation and coordination between different departments and business units within the company.

The first form is referred to as “fragmented,” or “partial project,” management and will be used in cases where project management is required only for a small portion of the activities of the company.  A good example would be the use of project management techniques within a single department, such as new product development, which the remainder of the company continues to rely solely on traditional management tools.  This type of project is relatively simple to execute given that there is little need to reconcile actual or potential conflicts with other departments; however, it is still necessary to understand some of the tools that are available to improve how the project proceeds.  Moreover, the manager or employee within the department who is responsible for the project should be trained in basic communication, organization and project management techniques to be sure that the project is completed on a timely basis and that the end result conforms to the expectations of all interested parties within the department.

The second form is called “departmental project management” and requires that each department have its own project managers to oversee the department’s contribution to a larger project that must pass continuously through several departments.  New product development provides a good example of how this might work.  The process might begin with a project manager and project management structure in the research and development department.  Once the project team in that department has completed its work the torch is passed to another project manager and team in the engineering department.  This process continues through the manufacturing and marketing departments.  While the advantage is that each department uses a formal process to manage and complete its main responsibilities with respect to launching the new product, the obvious disadvantage is that there is no single project manager with a stake in making sure that the entire project successfully moves through all the stages from beginning to end.  The obvious response to the limitations of departmental project management is “task force project management” that includes designation of a task force leader who is to be “responsible” for making sure that the entire project is completed.

Finally, companies engaged in project-driven industries such as aerospace, construction and defense tend to gravitate toward “matrix” structures.  A matrix management structure for a project requires coordination between the project manager who is primarily responsible for the work flow and completion of the project and the managers of the various functional departments that have control over the resources that the project manager needs in order to complete the project.  Advantages of this type of structure include access to the specialized resources developed and enhanced by the functional departments; however, the main disadvantage is the possibility that the managers of the functional departments will withhold resources from the project and channel them toward other projects that have a more direct bearing on the performance and operations of the department.  Companies using a matrix management structure for projects may adopt different variations that are based, in large part, on how power is balanced between the project and departmental managers and senior management generally needs to be prepared to actively intervene to ensure that the project is completed on a timely basis without undue disruption to departmental activities.

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