“If I assume that every project request is a valid request to address a problem, and not a solution to an unstated problem, then my team can design preferred solutions based on our experience, knowledge of our project portfolio, and of our capabilities, but there are many decisions we have to make understanding only part of the problem.”
With projects there is a great variety of decision-making problems impacting performance. In each instance, an Integrated PM approach, based on systems thinking, will lead to more insightful decision making.
The above diagram is an application of Management Science to the world of projects, and has been used in various industries for many years now. The assumption here is that;
- The problem has been clearly defined, implying that
- the objectives of the decision maker are known and there exist criteria to ascertain when they have been achieved,
- if there are conflicting objectives, trade-offs can be defined,
- the alternative courses of actions are known, either as a list of options or a set of decision variables,
- the constraints on the decision choices are known, and
- the input data needed are available;
- That the problem is relatively well structured, meaning that
- the relationships between the variables are tractable,
- system behavior can be captured in the project plans, and
- the computational effort for determining solution scenarios is economically feasible;
- The problem can be sufficiently well insulated from its wider system
- Optimization of the objectives, whenever possible, is ideal
- The problem is of a technical nature, devoid of politics; people are mainly seen as passive objects.
- If there are multiple stakeholders, a consensus can be reached about all aspects that affect how well the objectives can be achieved
- The decision maker has the power and authority to implement the ‘solution’ or enforce implementation through the hierarchical chain of command.
Yes, I know that this is quite an assumption. The fact is, any constraints in these areas will constrain every downstream project within the system. If you want performance improvement, then this is the first place to look.
In spite of all our PMI training, our system is managed in three phases illustrated in the diagram above.
(1) Problem Formation or Problem Scoping, (2) Problem Modeling, and (3) Implementation of Recommendations.
As shown, each phase consists of several steps. In practice, it is an iterative process where we may have to go back to earlier phases or steps to overcome unexpected difficulties, fill in omissions uncovered at a later stage, and alleviate or eliminate undesirable consequences. There are also forward linkages. At each step, we keep future steps in mind and are on the lookout for difficulties we may encounter. It may lead us to alter our initial approach and look for countermeasures, whenever possible.
I will address each of these 10 steps in future blogs. The diagram illustrates how Integrated PM holistically addresses the entire system, utilizing and solving for the concerns of portfolio management, program management, project management, capacity planning, project management and many more disciplines.