Category Archives: Project Management

More on Goals and Methods Matrix (Revisiting Turner and Cochrane)

I came across a very interesting piece while trying to research on different types of projects.  This includes stumbling on the “Goals-and-methods matrix: coping with projects with ill defined goals and/or methods of achieving them” by J R Turner and R A Chocrane  published in Vol II No 2 May 1993 in International Journal for Project Management.  I could not resist sharing a few points on the same with all of you.

Turner and Cochrane judge the projects based on two parameters:

  • whether the goals are well defined
  • whether the methods of achieving them are well defined

The resulting 2 x 2 matrix, which is called in this paper the goals-and-methods matrix, implies four types of project:

Type-l projects: for which the goals and methods of  achieving the project are well defined
Type-2projects: for which the goals are well defined but the methods are not
Type-3 projects: for which the goals are not well defined but the methods are
Type-4 projects: for which neither the goals nor the methods are well defined

This concept leads to the definition of four types of project:

Type-l projects: In these projects, the goals and methods are well defined. They are typified by large engineering projects.  These projects have been called the “Earth Projects” after the four traditional elements that is they are well defined with a solid foundation.

Type-2 projects: In these projects, the goals are well defined, but the methods of achieving them are not. They are typified by product-development projects.  These are “Water Projects” like a turbulent stream, they flow with a sense of purpose, but in an apparently haphazard way.

Type-3 projects: In these projects, the goals are not well defined, but the methods are. These are typified by software-development projects, in which it is notoriously difficult to specify the users’ requirements. The goals are known to exist, but cannot be specified precisely until users begin to see what can be produced, often during the testing stages.  These are “Fire Projects” much heat can be generated in the definition of the work, but they can burn with no apparent purpose.

Type-4 projects: In these projects, neither the goals, nor the method of achieving them, are well defined. They are typified by organizational-development projects. These are “Air Projects” they are very difficult to catch hold of, and deliver ‘blue-sky’ research objectives.

Turner adds a very interesting dimension to the project to diffrentiate a project from day-to-day operations. He says that the project should be:

1.  Unique (work done should unique)

2.  The organization should be novel

3.  The Change is unitary.

Turner and Cochrane suggests 3 breakdown structures for the projects.

In reverse order, they are as follows:

Product breakdown structure (PBS): This is a cascade of deliverables, in which the overall product or objective of the project is broken into subproducts, assemblages and components. It is a bill of materials for the project.

Organization breakdown structure (OBS): This is a cascade of resource types, skill types or activities. At high levels, the names may be similar to what are often called the ‘phases’ of a project: design, development, procurement, production, assembly, and testing. At lower levels, they are specific resource types: mechanical engineers, COBOL programmers etc.

Work breakdown structure (WBS): At any level of breakdown,  the 2-dimensional matrix of products and activities
define a task matrix, the sequence of activities required to deliver each product. The cascade of task matrices is the work breakdown structure for a project.

It is very interesting to see how Turner and Cochrane actually marry the breakdown structures and types of projects.

Type I Projects: or the “large engineering projects”  the PBS, OBS and WBS are all well defined.  Project managers treat Product Breakdown Structure and the Work Breakdown Structure as the same thing.  The Client Requirement Document or the Project Definition Report sets the basis of the project. The role of the project Manager is that of leader leading the skilled team through well defined set of activities

Type II Projects:  or the “product development projects”, the Product Breakdown Structure is well defined but Work Breakdown Structure that is the task matrix or precise sequence of events/activities involved in achieving a deliverable is not well defined. The Project Manager needs to put together multi-disciplinary team which should be very knowledgeable to define the methods required for the project to succeed.  The group needs to brainstorm to ensure that all angles or avenues are explored to choose the correct methodology for the project. Once the Task Matrix of the exact sequence of events is ready, the Project Manager should step back to ensure that the players are on their own.

Type III Projects: or the “Software Development Projects” the PBS is not well defined but WBS is partially defined.  The typical sequences of tasks required to achieve the deliverable are well known, but the precise form of the deliverable is not.   Hence the problem in Type III Project is more of defining the precise objectives and the purpose of the project. This calls for negotiation between project team and the project sponsor to understand the deliverable needed from the project.

Type IV Projects:  or the “Organizational Developmental Project” neither PBS nor WBS is well defined. The objectives, goals, methods and activities required need to constantly iterated.  The project manager needs to be very creative and strategic in these cases.

This piece of literature from Turner and Cochrane very clearly defines how we can overcome difficulties that we can face in projects which are not well defined in terms of Goals and Methods.  Absolutely fabulous piece of information shared in detail on the following link:

Happy Reading!

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First Understand the Type of Project! (Before Writing Project Charter)

Projects are often confused, misunderstood, overlapped, and go out of scope. It could be because of lack of understanding by the Project Manager to understand type of project he/she is tackling. Understanding the type of project is very important to understand the scope of the project (goals of the project) and also to execute the project in the correct manner.

A very useful matrix to understand the type of project is the “Goals and Methods” Matrix.  The Goals and Methods Matrix has been developed by Turner and Cochrane and it is of great help to understand only to understand the type but also the scope of the project.

Here is the “Goals and Methods Matrix”

Goals and Methods Matrix

Type I Projects:  Buildings and IT Installations

Type II Projects:  Software Development

Type III Projects:  Product Development

Type IV Projects:  Research/Organizational Change Projects

From the chart, it is very clear that large projects like building and IT installations projects have well defined goals as well as methods whereas projects involving around organizational change might not have well defined goals or methods.

If you are able to slot your projects in one of the square  then it is easy to estimate if  the goals and methods are well defined. When goals and methods are well defined, the Project Manager need not have to spend time meeting stakeholders time and again to titrate goals and for setting or changing objectives. But for projects which do not have a clearly defined goal or method, repeat meetings with stakeholders to gather more and more requirements, set objectives, and evaluate options becomes very important.

Each type of project is unique in its objectives, milestones, timelines and project charter. All projects cannot be dealt with the same project management techniques.  The Project Manager has to customize his approach based on the project he/she is handling.  Hence it is very important to define the appropriate project plan based on the project.

Millions of dollars are wasted year upon year by project managers who use the same approach for all kinds of project. Project Managers need to realize that one size cannot fit all the projects.  Detailed attention to Project Plan/Charter based on the project is the key to set the pace of the project and also in executing the project successfully.


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The Essentials for Right Project Charter

Preparing a project charter requires thorough understanding of all aspects of the project.

Preparing a good/credible project charter requires good knowledge of the following aspects of the project:

  1. Methods of Collecting data.
  2. Analyzing Data.
  3. Analyzing Process.
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Thinking/Ideating
  6. Decision Making
  7. Planning
  8. Risk Analysis
  9. Managing Change
  10. Managing Timelines
  11. Managing Cost.
  12. Managing Quality
  13. Managing Procurement
  14. Managing Time

Training project personnel on all of the above is extremely important for critical success of the project.

Particularly with regard to improvement projects, the first few factors are extremely important. Without understanding the process, the metrics involved in it, the correct methods of collecting the right data, we cannot understand the current state of the process.  Without baseline data in place, it would be extremely difficult to define the critical success factors in a project.

Apart from data, it is very important to analyze the process in a correct manner, understand the causal factors for problems, using good problem solving techniques, ideating/thinking, and then take the correct decisions.  Only if the above steps go in the right direction that we will be able to plan in terms of timelines, cost, and resources required for the project.

Though project charter appears as logical beginning of the project as it indicates the formal sign off process, it is infact an activity which can occur only after thorough understanding of all of the above and only after the project manager is well aware of the problem/causes/baseline state/improvement planned etc.

In the coming days, we will be discussing each essential in detail. I will be discussing collecting data in my next blog!

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Writing the Project Charter (Communication Skills for Project Managers- Part VI)

Project Charter is the most important document in a project.

It is used to describe the project’s purpose, scope, budget, resource requirements, schedule and critical success factors.  A well written “Project Charter” clearly communicates what the team needs to accomplish in a project and is useful for senior management team and the customers to understand what the project is all about.

Project charter needs to be prepared by project manager and signed off by project sponsors before the initiation of the project.  

Contents of Project Charter:

Project Goal Statement:  Describing the key objectives of the project. The objectives should be SMART that is specific, measurable, achievable, reachable and time bound.

Business Objectives:  Goals that an organization would like to be achieved from the project.

Key Deliverables/Critical Success Factors:  Describes what the project will deliver and what would describe critical success in a project.

Project Scope:  List out the goals/activities included and also excluded from the project.  It is very important to define the scope of the project so that the project stays on defined path and does not change the course over a period of time. It is also very important for clients/stakeholders so that they don’t make wrong assumptions about project deliverables.

Defining the scope very clearly is extremely important so that Scope Creep does not happen. Scope Creep that is adding work incrementally until the original cost and schedule are unachievable is very very common affliction that impact projects.  The scope statement should describe the major activities of the project in such a way that it will be absolutely clear if extra work is added later on.

Project Manager: Identifies who will be leading the project and  his role and responsibilities.  Another important aspect to include is the project manager’s level of authority and who can the project manager approach if there are decisions beyond to be made beyond his level of authority.

Team/Organizational Resources:  Lists the team members, and high level estimates of resources which might be required from each department.

Project Schedule:  A written statement of work with deliverables and dates clearly mentioned and agreed with the stakeholders will go a long way in avoiding any misunderstanding with regard to project completion dates.

Major Milestones: List of all the important tasks/activities that are to be achieved in a project and the estimated dates for completion of the same.

Project Budget:  Give a near precise estimate of how much money is going to be spend on the project.

Constraints: List down all possible constraints you might face in the project.

Risks Assumptions and Issues:  List down all the possible risks in a project.

Approvals: Project Charter can be either signed off by Project Sponsors or the Customers.

Important Points to be Remembered: 

It is very important to create Project Charter for every project as most of the project managers might not have formal authority over all the team members involved in the project.  By signing the project charter, the project sponsors/senior management formally open the project and give their formal nod to the project.  The commitment shown by the senior management team towards the project goes a long way in gaining commitment from all the members involved in the project.  The charter should clearly establish the project manager’s right to make decisions and lead the project.

There are 3 very important things to be considered while writing a project charter, these are:

1. Performance.

2.  Time

3.  Cost

These three factors are called “The Iron Triangle”. “The Iron Triangle” is a very interesting concept explained by Calahan and Brooks in their book “Essentials of Strategic Project Management”. The Iron Triangle concept states that at any point of time in a project, only one side of the triangle can be rigid and the other sides need to be flexible.  Hence while writing assumptions or while describing the risk probability it is very important to remember the Iron Triangle.

More on the same later….

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Communication Skills for Project Managers (Part V)

In my last posts, we have read about the softer side of communication skills, in this part we will be covering “Project Communication Plan”.

A Project Communication Plan defines the process and procedures involved in communicating project information.

Planning communication involves:

  • Planning Communication of Project Plans
  • Planning Communication of Project Reports
In order to understand this in greater detail, we need to understand:
  1. Communication of plans in form of project plans, schedules, status reports etc.
  2. Performance reporting of the project by understanding the information needs of the project. In other words, understanding the metrics which need to be communicated to peers, top management and clients.
  3. Deciding on the tools which will be communicating this information (excel, presentation, mail etc)
  4. Planning on how to collect, store and distribute the right information to be communicated to the stakeholders.
  5. The responsibility matrix that is the person who will be communicating the same.
  6. The frequency and timing of communication.

Communication covers every aspect of the project hence ensuring that the right people receive the right information at the right time is extremely important.

A role-responsibility-report matrix format can help us tremendously in deciding who will need what kind of information according to his role in the project.  For example a CEO might require brief status report and cost report whereas the project manager would require weekly status updates, risk reports, cost reports, issue tracker etc.  Creating a Role-Responsibility and report matrix in detail will help us keep communication on track.

To create this matrix we need to understand the different types of plans and reports which are required/can be used in a project.

In my next Blog we will discuss the different types of plans and reports which are helpful and their role in the “Project Communication Plan”.

Happy Reading!

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Communication Skills for Project Managers (Part IV)

After discussing the various media of communication, we will now discuss the four rules of communication as shared in “Communication Skills for Project Managers” by Micheal Campbell, PMP:

•Rule of Frequency
•Rule of Primacy
•Rule of Recency:
•Rule of Emotion
Rule of Frequency: States that people remember the information they hear very frequently hence important information needs to be broadcast repeatedly in a project so that the concerned can remember it easily.
Rule of Primacy:  States that people will remember the first time they heard about something. Hence the first communication regarding the project is extremely important to set a benchmark regarding the project.
Rule of Recency:  States that people tend to remember the most recent information that they have heard regarding the project.  Timely updates in form of weekly reports, monthly reports, status change reports are extremely important so that people are aware of  progress, changes or stalemates in the projects.
Rule of Emotion:  States that people remember information that impacts them emotionally. Hence it is very important that all the updates whether good or bad be given in a matter of fact and business like manner.
Effective communication in a project is extremely important, in my next blog., I will be discussing the  information needs in a project and the correct way of communicating the same.
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Communication Skills for Project Managers (Part III)

Choosing your medium … the best way to communicate.

According to richness, we grade the different media as:

High Richness     …………………………………………………………              Low Richness

Face-to-face….Telephonic….Online meetings……Chat (IM)……..Written Communication (Emails)

The important points to remember while using different Media are:


  1. Use for clear and concise communication.
  2. Use it when you need to share the information with interrupting the recipient/also when you would like to put your point across without any interruption.
  3. Most importantly use it when you would like have a stored record for the future.
  4. Another important aspect of Email is that it can be used to share a message 24/7
  5. It is also useful means when you have to share a message with a group in a clear and concise manner.
  6. It can form the basis of legal defenses if the need arises.
  7. It can be ineffective in hands of people with poor communication.
  8. Another disadvantage is lack of immediate clarifications.
  1. Gives instant access to a person.
  2. Helps in explaining the subject matter in detail.
  3. Use it when you need  an immediate response.
In person
  1. Helps in communicating messages in entirety (that is body language, voice inflection, facial expressions etc).
  2. Use it when you have build  rapport with someone.
  3. Use it when the topic to be discussed is sensitive and important.
  4. It is helpful particularly to avoid miscommunication as well as in case there has been any miscommunication.
  5. It is very effective tool for negotiations, tricky negotiations are best done face to face.
  6. Use it when you need quick feedback.
  7. The only disadvantage is in absence of record oral messages have no legal validity.
  8. Unclear messages can be misunderstood.
Irrespective of means of communication, the SHARE Model can help us in communicating better:
State the main point of your message
For example:   “I’d like to talk to you about the new employee welcome program”.
Highlight other important points
For example:  “We need to discuss the new schedule, locations, and presenters”.
Assure the receiver’s understanding
Do you need me to further clarify how we are making invitations”?
React to how the receiver responds
For example:  “I understand your concern about parking”.
Emphasize/summarize your main ideas
For example:  “To wrap-up, I’ll develop the schedule and make the room reservations, if you can line up the guest speakers”.
Hope you will find this helpful.
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Communication Skills for Project Managers (Part II)

In this part we will be discussing the right “Questioning Techniques” that can be used effectively by project managers.

We first need to understand the types of questions for the same:

Close -ended questions which limit the answer to yes or no
For example:  “Did you attend the review meeting this morning”?
Open-ended questions allow the responder freedom in answering.
For example:  “What was discussed at the review meeting this morning”?
Direct questions asked for specific information; that is questions which limit answers to brief fact statements
For example:  “Which were the topics listed on the meeting agenda today”?
Probing questions which usually follow other questions to solicit additional information
For example:  “Can you give some more information on the first agenda of the meeting?”
Hypothetical questions present a theoretical situation to which receiver responds.

For Example:  “What would you have done, if you had the opportunity to change time-lines for your deliverable?”

A very good model for questioning which project managers need to know is the “Focus Model”

Focus the discussion on the specific information you need, do not get distracted and lose the track of discussion.
Open-end question to expand the discussion and elicit more information from the sender (person who gives information)
Close-end question to get specific information you would require for example numbers, dates etc.
Use active listening skills discussed in the last blog to understand what you are hearing.
Summarize and close the discussion.
Today many project managers miss face to face meetings which a norm until some time back and do cite this as a reason for not getting enough information from peers and clients as per the requirement of the project.
This can be avoided in case we use the right medium for communication as well as the right means of communication.
We shall be discussing the media of communication in my post.
Happy reading.

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Communication Skills (Part I) for Project Managers

Communication is a process by which we exchange meaning, facts, ideas, opinion or emotions with other people.

Let us understand the various goals which we intend to achieve by communicating with each other:

  1. To get and give information(the most common goal)
  2. To persuade
  3. To get someone to take action
  4. To ensure understanding
  5. To change behavior
Means/Media and types of communication are:
1. Verbal communication
2.  Non-verbal communication
Verbal communication:  is divided into oral communication and written communication
Nonverbal communication: is divided sign language and body language.
Communication begins with Hearing/Listening.
Many people do not thoroughly understand the difference between hearing and listening.
Here are some of the differences which need to be noted and remembered for effective communication:
•Hearing is subconscious
•Listening Is Conscious.
•Listening Is With The Mind
•Hearing With The Senses
We need to understand that listening is a process of eliciting important information, ideas, attitudes and emotions.
There is a distinct difference between hearing and listening.
We can perceive any sound within our range of audibility, while we may not actually be trying to focus intently on the message, this is hearing.
Listening consists of stages which can spread out. These stages include:
•Focusing on the message
•Comprehending and interpreting
•Analyzing and Evaluating
How can we train ourselves to listen more actively?
  1. Prepare to focus on what is said.
  2. Control and eliminate distractions so that you can focus on the message.
  3. Avoid working on computer, watching TV, etc when listening.
  4. Establish appropriate eye contact to show interest in the person.
  5. See listening as an opportunity to get information, share another’s views, and broaden your own knowledge as a result of this interaction.
  6. Create the need to listen.  Be prepared mentally about what information would you require from the speaker.
  7. Set aside the time to listen.
  8. Do not listen with the intent to form opinion/judgement.
  9. Absorb what is being said thoroughly before framing replies in your mind.
Techniques to Improve Listening Skills:
Paraphrase:  Restate what was said in your own words.  It is better to restate the important points that the speaker has spoken to check your understanding particularly with regard to important information.
Summarize:  Pull together the main points of a speaker.  Writing down small notes during important discussions will really help.
Questions:  Use this technique when you need further clarifications on what is being said.
We will be discussing questioning techiniques in my post!
Happy Reading!


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Leadership Skills for Project Managers

Research shows that the most important leadership skills required for project managers are:

•Communication skills

•Negotiation skills

•Conflict resolutions skills
•Team building skills
•Motivational skills
Majority of the projects fail due to the following reasons according to the project management communication bible:
Communication problems = 90%
Poor Requirements definition = 2%
Inadequate risk management = 1%
Poor Scope control = 1%
Lack of qualified resources = 1%
Other = 2%
Hence 90% of the projects fail due to lack of communication skills. This includes both verbal and nonverbal communication.
Many of us lack attention while we are listening that is
  1. Failure to focus on the message
  2. Failure to comprehend and thoroughly understand what is being communicated
  3. Failure to analyze and evaluate data and words being spoken or written.
This results in lack of ability to respond correctly.  The entire spectrum of symptoms results lack of ability to remember the same at a later date.
This happens due to barriers to active listening.  When managers put in concerted efforts to improve their listening skills by understanding the kind of barriers which exists, it will greatly help them to overcome the same.
We will discuss how to overcome barriers to active listening in my next blog!
Happy reading…


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