“We are all fundamentally decision-makers. Everything we do consciously or unconsciously is the result of some decision” (Saaty, 2008, p.84). Project management requires a multitude of decisions—some large and some small but no less important. Project management generally considers short-term projects as part of the overall purpose of the team and organization- despite the fact that some projects stretch into years. The following project management strategies seek to provide techniques to avoid the unnecessary prolonging of any project, and insightful management may even guide a project away from an inadequate course of action or may discover the earliest warning signs of failure- before millions of additional dollars are invested and the company’s resources are allocated for naught. In each of the following three articles, diverse, research-based perspectives present possible new solutions to common problems of project implementation, guidance, and redirection. Biedenbach and Müller (2012) ascribe specific qualities to three must-have capabilities; Saaty (2008) proposes using logical approaches to the analytical hierarchy process to prioritize difficult, intangible dilemmas; Dey (2002) suggests a combined approach of the analytic hierarchy process and the decision tree. Like project managers themselves, each article furthers a different cause with the same aim: making management easier and more productive.
Biedenbach and Müller (2012) emphasize the importance of absorptive, innovative, and adaptive capabilities within project and portfolio management. Absorptive capabilities may also be characterized as integrative since they seek to combine external information and technologies with internal projects. Absorptive capabilities include learning and training (p. 624). Innovative capabilities refine or transform existing products or information or produce new products or information. According to the authors, interorganizational collaboration fosters the expansion of the project’s innovative capabilities (pp. 624-625). Adaptive capabilities require rapid, well-informed decision-making and the occasional investment in goods or services which enhance the viability of the project. The authors emphasize that these capabilities particularly affect the earliest stages of project development, a stage which, in some cases, stretched for years due to inadequacies in project management (p. 622). As a result of their case studies, the authors conclude that absorptive capabilities strongly influence all three domains of study: short-term success, long-term success, and overall portfolio performance (p. 631). Their table of findings provides a resource for easily separating one or more objectives according to the specific capability which accentuates a project’s goal.
Biedenbach and Müller sought out biotechnological and pharmaceutical organizations for case studies because the management of these projects frequently takes years and millions of dollars with the added risk of the failure of these developments either in the early years or as a result of trials, which may even ruin strong companies heavily invested in the production of a new good (2012). The authors explain their rationale thus: “While project performance concerns doing projects right, portfolio performance is about doing the right projects” (p. 623). Although the broader capabilities themselves typify generalization, Biedenbach and Müller delineate the qualities of the crucial components of these capabilities, such as resource allocation and cross-functional collaboration (pp. 623-624). Additionally, efficient resource allocation, project selection in accordance with general business strategy, and a focused balance of projects and resources culminate in one comprehensive view of project performance.
Saaty (2008) begins by explaining that the intangible components of a project are still crucial to its specific outcomes. For project managers, the author claims that a carefully-engineered system of priorities can help guide project development. Saaty suggests a process for the simplification of arranging objectives. First, managers define the problem and desired knowledge. Second, they create a decision hierarchy with the overarching goals and objectives at the top, the intermediate level of criterion which must first be fulfilled, and the base level of possible alternatives. Third, compare the levels. Fourth, Place priorities on a level (p. 85). Additionally, a numeric system of ranking the short-term and long-term import of each priority constitutes a new fundamental scale. The number and importance of each of the required conditions also provides data for the likelihood of a successful (or otherwise positive) outcome (pp. 88-93). This issue has long perplexed project managers who struggle with the diverse perspectives of each of its members—some of which may be considered rightful experts involved in an internal debate.
Saaty (2008) writes that four possible perspectives dominate project management: benefits, opportunities, costs, and risks (pp. 94-95). While project managers may assign different emphases and labels- or even discount intangible facets- these considerations dominate project development. Within larger network decisions, the author proposes the use of the similar analytic network process model, which is designed to accept large quantities of interdependence and feedback and to place them into a system which distills the root ideas, goals, potential costs and gains, etc. for further consideration. Saaty also states that this process must be catalogued geometrically, logged, and applied consistently to continue to provide unity and ultimate benefit for future projects (pp. 95-96).
Dey (2002), like Saaty, utilizes the analytic hierarchy process. However, Dey combines this approach with the use of the Decision Tree. This arranged the ultimate priorities for project managers, creating less ambiguity for the overburdened or indecisive leaders. Dey writes that conventional models do not appropriately account for risk management and fail to: 1) bridge project phases, 2) build project team confidence and achievement, 3) make objective decisions using databases, 4) provide information, and 5) encourage close team cooperation (pp. 13-14). Much like Saaty, Dey proposes the use of ranking and statistical analysis only as a means of finding probability and identifying possible weaknesses.
Biedenbach and Müller (2012) explain that, although the triangle of quality-time-cost traditionally models productivity, efficiency comprises a short-term objective rather than the long-term goals of business successes (and subsequent benefits). Even the traditional triangular model of project performance differs. Kerzner (2009) displays its three facets as time, cost, and performance/technology (p. 6). Other measurements specific to research and development (R & D), such as the threshold externalities model, are little-known (Castellacci & Natera, 2012). In yet another variation, Kousholt (2007) includes time, cost, and human resources (p. 16). Garein and Huemann (2000) add that the base of the entire triangle rests squarely upon the project structure and culture. In each of these models, the third point of the triangle represents a subjective aspect in addition to time and cost. Saaty (2008) acknowledges these intangibles as among the most important factors in project management and criticizes the exclusive use of mathematics to analyze components of success (pp. 84-86).
Garein and Huemann (2000) write that the isolation of a single ‘Big Project Picture’ for a team functions as the mission statement for a company. Castellacci and Natera (2011) write that the international impact of absorptive capacity is as important as capability, making a country’s likelihood of appropriate technological imitation crucial to its ability to remain competitive. Completion once dominated discussions of success or failure. Kerzner (2009) writes that finishing a project 1) on time, 2) within the budget, 3) at proper performance, 4) customer acceptance, 5) minimal change, 6) work flow, and 7) changes to work culture now comprise success as well, and the regimented organization of leadership fits into new models as well as those of classic management (pp. 7-11). Again the literature comes to a point of necessary customization according to the goals of the individual project. Kousholt (2007) writes that the primary objective of some projects is the achievement of permanent change for the greater good of the team (p. 22). Saaty and Dey laud change as a force of producing potential benefit, but Dey’s model requires a keen self-awareness which many people do not possess (2008; 2002). The greatest merit of this model lies in its inclusion of both tangible and intangible resources in an impartial manner. Jones (2004) adds that project planning, the accurate estimation of costs, measurements, the tracking of milestones, change management, and quality control together allow for change to occur in a way which unifies team members and embraces change (pp. 5-6).
Extensive project management faces many risks. As Biedenbach and Müller (2012) states that one characteristic of biotechnological research and development is the “complex and lengthy development [process] of up to 15 years, which [is] costly and hardly predictable” (p. 622). Each of these three articles presents useful strategies for a different perspective of the short-term and long-term management of a project as well as various paths to- and measures of- success. Quantitative research bolsters the claims of all three articles, illustrating the very multi-faceted, subjective nature of working with large teams during project management. A modern approach to project management must integrate the best of many aspects, and Kerzner’s diagram overlaps project management, total quality management, risk management, change management, and concurrent engineering (2009, pp. 74-75). As with many useful methodologies, selecting the best one for managing a particular project requires that the research be consulted first and put through trial-and-error testing, because management styles continue to be as diverse as those individuals utilizing them. After reviewing the literature, Saaty’s use of the analytical hierarchy process displays its succinct, practical, and widely-applicable guidelines amidst a literature which is replete with fuzzy logic represented as unshakable fact. Project-specific considerations in combination with general best practices produce the greatest current good. Nonetheless, project managers should heed the warning of Jones’s article, “Software Project Management Practices: Failure Versus Success”: “The main problem with estimates for projects… is that they err on the side of excessive optimism” (2004, p.6).
Biedenbach, T., & Müller, R. (2012). Absorptive, innovative, and adaptive capabilities and their impact on project and project portfolio performance. International Journal of Project Management, 30: 621-635. Print.
Castellacci, F., & Natera, J.M. (2011). The dynamics of national innovation systems: a panel cointegration analysis of the coevolution between innovative capability and absorptive capacity. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Print.
Dey, P. (2002). Project Risk Management: A Combined Analytic Hierarchy Process and Decision Tree Approach. Cost Engineering, 44(3): 13-26. Print.
Gareis, G., & Huemann, M. (2000). Project Management Competences in the Project-oriented Organisation. The Gower Handbook of Management. Print.
Jones, C. (2004). Software Project Management Practices: Failure Versus Success. The Journal of Defense Software Engineering. Print.
Kerzner, H. (2009). PROJECT MANAGEMENT: A SYSTEMS APPROACH TO PLANNING, SCHEDULING, AND CONTROLLING. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Print.
Kousholt, B. (2007). Project Management. 1st ed. Denmark: Nyt Teknisk Forlag. Print.
Saaty, T. (2008). Decision making with the Analytical Hierarchy Process. Print.