Loading... Revised Date: 07/2011 Accessibility Information and Tips Back 1 article(s) will be saved. The link information below provides a persistent link to the article you've requested. Persistent link to this record: Following the link below will bring you to the start of the article or citation. Cut and Paste: To place article links in an external web document, simply copy and paste the HTML below, starting with "Virtual project management: Tools and the trade. *Database: * Business Source Premier ------------------------------------------------------------------------ VIRTUAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT: TOOLS AND THE TRADE *• * Abstract This paper investigates the broad subject of project management organizations as they enter a new era of organizational arrangements. Practitioners and academics often refer to these arrangements as globally dispersed or as virtual project enterprises. This paper focuses on four related areas of virtual project organizations and their project teams. The paper presents a brief history about approaches to project management theory and practice and defines virtual project organizations. The paper addresses challenges concerning communication and technology for virtual project organizations. The paper then summarizes four key organizational structures that form the basis of project-based organizations. This context is necessary in showing why some of the problems in understanding organizational structures are related to how well this information is communicated through models. An evolution of management approaches necessitates a modification in the types of project management models and communication tools. The paper introduces a new model that is capable of educating practitioners about the importance of focusing on people-centered project management tools for virtual project organizations. The final section of the paper examines one strategic and operational planning and communication tool: the roundtable road-mapping method. The tool is simple yet it is important in understanding the level of personal involvement that may be required for successful communication and planning in nontraditional virtual project structures. *• * The following paper is the winner of the 1997 International Student Paper Award. Sponsored by the PMI Educational Foundation, the International Student Paper Award recognizes excellence in student development of original concepts in project management. Mrs. Guss was presented the award at PMI '97 in Chicago, Illinois. Keywords: virtual project organizations; communication tools; road-mapping method Theory and Practice <#toc> Project management-based organizations understand performance, cutting costs, and reducing product or service time-to-market as a requirement for survival in an aggressive business environment. As early as the 1930s, project-based organizations gauged success using easy-to-quantify factors such as financial performance and scheduling efficiency. The accelerated rate of change in communication technology has punctuated the need to measure areas of business that are difficult to quantify, such as customer satisfaction and organizational communication. (The introduction of the communication technology concept is credited to W. Edwards Deming in the 1950s. The term project success is most often associated with work in the field of manufacturing and operations.) The result may be misaligned goals among project teams, their organizations, and clients. Project organizations need to treat their success as an emergent quality measurable by flexible, qualitative, and quantitative indicators. This need is even more clearly seen in virtual project organizations. These organizations are uniquely organic in that their critical business processes may cut across temporal and geographical boundaries with impacts at different points in a project. The road-mapping method is a powerful tool that is capable of aligning a project organization, project team members, and their clients. The following section provides the insight necessary to understand the usefulness of people-oriented tools and their role in shaping theory and practice. The Backbone of Project Management. Constant transitions are occurring in management styles, organizational structures, and project management techniques. Project management professionals tend to be at different stages of acceptance and willingness to change and adopt planning and communication technology. Therefore, project management professionals are more likely to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to project management practice and study as a means of being responsive to solving real-world problems. Problem solving often requires project organizations to validate or challenge common assumptions as well as contribute to the development of theory. However, eliciting and distributing knowledge in project management is difficult because experts share only parts of their terminology and conceptual systems. The key is for project management practitioners to recognize and work around the empirical limitations of a young science while continually moving the project management profession forward. The relative inexperience of project management as a science creates some difficulty in clearly introducing the phenomenon of virtual project organizations. Although discussion of virtual project organizations and their teams is appearing in the literature with increasing regularity, definition and terminology are considerably different. Therefore, discussion of these differences is a significant stage in the process of eliciting common knowledge. What are Virtual Project Organizations? Although a seemingly radical organizational approach, virtual project organizations are touted as the next form in the evolution of organizational structures. Jan Hopland initially coined the term virtual corporation to describe an organizational web comprised of a small, globally dispersed ad hoc team forming an enterprise (Rodal & Wright, 1993). Since then, the rapid growth of electronic networking and communication technologies in many different industries is resulting in a proliferation of terms that attempt to describe the concept. Table 1 lists some of the most common names to describe virtual organizations and virtual teams. Advances in understanding how organizational structures impact project management depend in part on how experts define the concept behind the problems. Elements of several definitions of virtual teams are from Kostner (1994), Barnatt (1995), Chesbourough and Teece (1996), Knoll and Jarvenpaa (1996), and Hartman and Guss (1996). Hartman and Guss pull together the most common concepts in theoretical and empirical research to form the following definition of a virtual project team: A temporary group of trained people separated by geographic, temporal or psychological distance, who work across organizational forms, depend on face-to-face and remote communication with the intent of satisfying business requirements of sharing skills and working toward common team and client goals. A virtual project organization may quickly deploy its resources to form project teams that are capable of responding to emerging project work. Although technologically able, virtual project organizations are still most likely to exist across other more traditional organizations. For example, contract employees may work interactively with home-based organization staff and project team members from other organizations who may employ a hierarchical or matrix structure. These project teams may be composed of customers, suppliers, functional departments, and even competitor companies, with a common goal of exploiting brief windows of opportunity on any type of project, anywhere, at anytime, and in any place. Despite inconsistency in defining virtual entities, an important issue is that geographic location is no longer a primary context to define a business opportunity. Technology and Virtual Organizations <#toc> Many projects in the mid-1990s employ project team members that have no option to meet face-to-face. Ultimately, the challenge may lie in developing communication and management systems that work without face-to-face interaction. However, research is only beginning to challenge the belief that computer-mediated communication reduces personal influence. Walther (1996,p. 12) found that anticipation of future interaction (a team knew if it would work with a client again) accounted for the differences between use of virtual communication and face-to-face interaction on "the immediacy, similarity, composure and receptivity of group members." Researchers are also finding that electronic media can facilitate "hyperpersonal" (better than face-to-face) communication (Walther, 1996; Knoll & Jarvenpaa, 1996). Despite empirical and case studies that contradict this finding the literature generally agrees that some level of face-to-face contact is desirable. Table 2 provides a brief review of some common communication technologies employed by virtual project organizations and their teams. The rapid rate of technology availability is one major stimulus working to level the playing field among larger and smaller projectbased organizations. Alternately, smaller virtual project organizations may prefer to hire contract experts rather than invest in the human capital necessary to develop internal communication expert systems. Regardless of the path, smaller project organizations can more often afford the technology necessary to be competitive. Therefore, radically new relationships with contractors, suppliers, and clients are no longer the domain or privilege of larger project organizations. Despite rapid advances in technology, human resistance may be the most significant barrier to communication in virtual project organizations. In some cases, project managers may perceive technology to be unproven or less effective. Project management professionals may also be faced with determining what kind of communication tools work best within their project teams and between teams and the virtual project organization. One difficulty is that critical information about the culture, communication tools, and management approach in virtual project organizations may be unavailable or not evident to all project team members. Part of the problem is that management approaches are not always clearly identifiable. Management Approaches <#toc> Project managers are still facing common difficulties in creating a shared mental model of familiar organizational structures such as project management, management-by-projects, and program management. A clearer understanding of existing structures is necessary, to understand the current and potential arrangement of a virtual project organization. Figure 1 presents the theoretical relationship among four key management approaches. These approaches may all play a role in the growth and development of virtual project organizations. Until the 1950s, Quadrant III dominated, resulting in over-the-wall working (Turner, Peymai, & Stewart, 1995). The goal consisted of maximizing efficiency of routine tasks in each organizational cell. The resulting lack of customer focus prompted the use of a management-by-project approach (Quadrant II). For example, the management-by-project approach adapts well to a flatter power structure and a flexible organization whose project procedures are essentially reinvented for each project (Turner et al., 1995). In the late '50s, the Cold War and rapid economic development sparked the popularity of a project management approach (Quadrant Iv). The major drawback in the foundation of traditional project management is that it is rooted in a command and control approach similar to a functional hierarchy. Therefore, the actual internal system of management rather than the external, or a customer focus (Quadrant l), may essentially drive a project (Turner et al., 1995). There may be many practitioners who disagree with Figure I because it suggests that project management is not customer-focused. In practice, each approach is not mutually exclusive. The real value of Figure I is to show the breadth of management approaches that a virtual project organization may be working across. An appealing feature of the project management approach is that it is more capable of allowing an organization to learn from its mistakes while providing a platform for cross-functional communication in novel project environments. Alternately, process management (Quadrant l) is a very customerfocused approach born from the need to maximize operating efficiency on less complex projects that may have core characteristics. Project organizations may not even be aware of these theoretical distinctions because real-world project management is complex and requires the use of a combination of management approaches. The project management literature is more apt to agree that a major part of managing successful projects involves delivering value to customers (Unicutta & Hartman, 1996; Mills & Turner, 1995; Turner et al., 1995). This finding has led practitioners to question the effectiveness of traditional or lag indicators such as delivery on time, cost, and quality specifications even though these indicators are the established cornerstones of project management. The combination of more complex and uncertain projects and a business climate that demands a strong customer focus may continue to blur the lines between Quadrant II and IV (see Figure 1). More certain is that a strong customer focus in project management will help practitioners understand the risk, uncertainty, and complexity inherent in projects undertaken by virtual project entities. Because of the heightened role of the customer in project management, the communication of information about management structure through models requires discussion (Ilincutta & Hartman, 1996; Thamhain, 1996; Reich & Benbasat, 1996). Models need to expose practitioners to new ways of thinking about concepts as an essential part of the success of project management in new and unfamiliar organizational arrangements. Models should provide information to practitioners about the necessity of asking why and how to align business and project goals in environments where physical distance separates the major project players. Figure 2 presents a schematic of two different cognitive processes (A and B) necessary to understand project alignment (Process B is considered the dominate mode in traditional project management). Reich and Benbasat (1996) note that although linkage or alignment is a key concern in most organizational approaches, there is no consensus about how to achieve alignment. Alignment is more central to information systems research than to project management research. However, inconsistency in its definition and study are also a problem. For example, the term linkage is also reported as alignment (Galliers, 1987; Henderson & Sifonis, 1992); coordination in Venkatraman (1989); and fit in Lederer and Mendelow (1989). Conversely, traditional project management is more consistent in its discussion and use of the term alignment. Traditional project management most often approaches the question of success as a problem of balancing technical, process, and people-oriented tools and techniques (Figure 2-B). However, recent studies in project management are showing the value of investigating what works well and finding out why a project is successful (Figure 2-A). The focus in this process (Figure 2-B) is on generative learning, in which an organization examines radical possibilities beyond present boundaries imposed by problem solving (Barrett, 1995). Hartman's (1996) SMART (strategically managed, aligned, regenerative, and transitional) model effectively communicates the information presented in Figure 2 (A and B). The SMART model's (Figure 3) uniqueness lay in its goal of initially examining why projects succeed. Thus, project success is a case of aligning customer user functionality needs with business and project-organization objectives, and vise versa. The SMART model answers three simple questions (Figure 2-A) as a first step in figuring why projects succeed. The model suggests that in highly complex and uncertain project characteristics of virtual environments, the customer may have limited foresight, such as their needs are unarticulated and remain unmet by a traditional closed problem solving approach. Strategically managed projects are projects that build short-term project plans to complement an organization's long-term business plan. The model suggests that planning should include analysis of how each project will contribute to realizing the organization's long-term business direction. Thus, alignment refers to the fit between each project and the overall organizational business goals of the sponsor organization, the project team, and the client. To achieve alignment, the project organization, as well as its project teams, needs to engage in regenerative behavior. Regenerative behavior refers to the processes and practices that build trust and commitment and encourage open debate while minimizing destructive conflict. This concept is most similar to Barrett (1995), whose definition of organizational requires organizations to examine their underlying organizational foundations. The SMART model is one of the first models to articulate customer focus as its central component. Similarly, perceptions are slow to change about the importance and usefulness of people-oriented project management tools. Practitioners trained in the traditional project management approach tend to rely on tools that produce lag indicator estimates (i.e., on budget, on schedule). Although these tools are definitely important in project management, their usefulness in estimating project success is questionable. Empirical and theoretical findings indicate that lead or "soft" indicators concerned with communication and management are inherently intertwined in managing the technical aspects of a project. Thus, lead indicators are often more responsive in estimating project success. Time will tell more about the ability of lead indicators in estimating project success, sharing lessons learned, and increasing project management expertise. It is more certain that people-centered project planning and communication tools will occupy a prominent space in the tool-belt of a successful virtual project manager. A Process-Centered Tool <#toc> Project managers must continually seek better tools and techniques to overcome limitations and inefficiencies in projects. Communication inefficiencies may be even more evident in virtual organizations because of reduced access and reliance on nonverbal communication cues. Communication may even be considered as the connective tissue of a virtual project. The difficulty is in tapping into what is essentially the transmission of communication energy needed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge among project team members, their organizations, and clients. An organic metaphor of a nerve impulse shows areas of potential bottlenecks in the sender, receiver, and audience relationship (Figure 4). One of the most difficult tasks of a virtual project organization may be in training project team members how to communicate intended or tacit knowledge (on-the-job know-how). A parallel problem exists to initially train a nerve to develop a "memory" to recognize and respond to patterns of impulses, avoid blocks, and elicit a desired response. The entire project team (or the whole body in the case of the nerve) experiences a shift in energy required to send and receive communication. Similarly, in virtual project organizations, recruitment of a critical number of team members may be required for effective communication. This, in turn, may result in a natural shift in the power base so that it is shared among project team members. Essentially, the value of communication may be experienced by all project team members, not only the project manager and the organization's senior management. Virtual project organizations may actually facilitate the natural process in understanding communication as organizational evolution and not necessarily a problem with individual team members. The road-mapping process is one communication and planning tool that is well suited for use in virtual project organizations. The tool treats communication and planning as an emerging process that needs to be guided and not controlled. An emergent process is one that is flexible and can shift or change over time in response to internal and external pressures and opportunities. The tool's roots are in participatory research including cultural and anthropological studies, aboriginal healing circles, medicine wheels, and, more recently, in law through mediation and dispute resolution. All these areas are grounded in the belief that the essential focus of a project is on the people and not the tools. Masur (1993) notes that the origin is unclear, but the common theme is in participation and self-direction. Other researchers claim that the road-mapping method has its roots in a model developed for use by executives (Veltrop & Yost, 1988). The road-mapping method is participatory and ad hoc by nature so that participants can take full responsibility for strategy formulation. The project organization must allow for shared power (or clear access and support to power) or else the tool will have little impact on the value-creating parts of the organization. Personal responsibility is essential to enable participants to "buy in" at the start of the process. However, if top management is not committed, team members' risk-taking behavior may be unsupported (MacArthur, 1993). Despite their merits, participatory tools are less often sought because they require continual learning and innovative thinking by the whole project organization. This tool requires a nontraditional focus on problem solving. Rather than fixing problems, the method examines the underlying framework that is generating the problems. Srivastva and Cooperrider (1996) speak of this approach as "Appreciative Inquiry." Appreciative inquiry is a form of generative learning capable of leveraging key aspects of an organization's culture and communication systems. This level of inquiry is accessible through the road-mapping tool. The resultant product is a solid framework of an organization's underlying framework that may explain why some problems tend to persist even when they have been "fixed." This framework should be examined by studying what works well within an organization, what drives its success, and what shared mental model or vision is needed for success. The road-mapping model shown in Figure 5 originally included seven steps: vision, purpose, beliefs, values, principles, objectives, and strategies. Participants engage in a one- to two-day workshop, guided by their choice of facilitators. The number of participants, time available, readiness of the participants, and skill of the facilitator play a key role in determining the length of a participatory planning process (Coyne, 1992). The road-mapping method may be conducted using computer groupware, or face-to-face, or a combination of both. Table 3 outlines the steps developed by the author to conduct a road-mapping session. Copies of the draft road map should be made available immediately after the meeting closes to signal the completion of the initial process. The whole process may take one to two days, depending on the size of the group. Subsequent review sessions should also be established before the close of the meeting. The key is to ensure that participants are responsible for follow-up on each issue. Summary <#toc> All indications are that the phenomenon of the virtual project organizations is here to stay. Project management is necessarily problem-driven, so therefore lessons are often ad hoc, and communication mistakes may be repeated. As a young science, project management is constantly reexamining its foundations and building on its understanding of how to manage a successful project. The key issue is for project managers to ask the right questions. Project managers must understand why people-centered communication tools are important and how to select and use the most appropriate technology. Often these decisions are made with little previous knowledge or experience with virtual project organizations or their project teams. However, there is no question that the tools and the trade of project management will continually work to shape each other and rise to the challenge of managing virtual projects. Table 1. Terms Describing Virtual Project Organizations and Their Teams <#toc> Terms Authors Spider Webs Reich, 1991 Modulars, Clusters, Learning Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1989; Networks, Perpetual Matrices, Miles & Snow, 1986; Quinn, or Spinouts 1992; Rodal & Wright, 1993 Third Millennium Groups Kostner, 1994 Virtual Organizations Handy, 1995 Boundaryless Organizations Ashkenas, UIrich, Jick, & Kerr 1995 Postmodern Organization Duffy, 1994 Alternate Officing Packard, 1996 Extended Enterprises and Landay, 1996; Barnatt, 1995; Flexible Manufacturing Chesbourough & Teece, 1996; Networks Yeack & Sayles, 1996 Distributed Global Workteams Knoll & Jarvenpaa, 1996 Turbo Task Forces, or Jessup, 1996; Mezias & Autonomous Work Groups Glynn, 1993; Knoll & Outside Existing Jarvenpaa, 1996 Organizational Structures Virtual Factory Upton & McAfee, 1996 Table 2. Some Technologies Used by Virtual Project Organizations and Their Teams <#toc> Legend for Chart: A - Technology B - Description C - Common Uses A B C Group Decision Support * Software to enable Systems (GDSS) information exchange, information processing and group management. Poole & Holmes (1995) report that teams using GDSS had longer and more effective decision paths but not better organized paths. Part of the difficulty in accepting GDSS is that professionals often believe that orderliness correlates highly with the quality of decisions. * Making group decisions * Electronic brainstorming * Newsgroups and bulletin boards to share information Desktop * Software and small hardware Videoconferencing attachment (camera) to the top of a computer monitor. The tool provides interactive, synchronous visual and auditory stimulus. Although integrated services digital networks are better for videoconferencing, they can only handle a limited number of frames per second, giving lower quality "freeze frame" communication. Often, users perception of communication quality is linked to frame rate. * Personal meetings where synchronous communication is beneficial * Projects where team members are working together * Situations when tough decisions need to be made and visual cues are important Electronic Mail (E-mail) * A communication tool useful in exchanging information one-to-one (or too many people when using the real-time chat feature), within or outside of the Internet. E-mail is one of the most widely used and accepted communication channels for low-level information exchange combined with high-involvement attributes (i.e., need for speed). * Information exchange * Document file transfer * Informal and personal communication * Logistics arrangements for travel and meetings * Issuing memorandums Internet * Software freely obtainable via a computer and modern. The universal language is called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). This language forms the basis for windows-based search engines designed for simple browsing of any Internet site. * Web-based team building and project management tools * Graphic interface to transmit computer-aided designs * Electronic: meetings, marketing, customer support, data interchange * E-mail and Internet relay chat * Pipeline directly to existing project management software Note: This work is similar to work from Guss, 1996. Table 3. Steps in the Road-Mapping Method <#toc> Legend for Chart: A - Steps B - Instructions A B Getting Acquainted (1) * Exchange personal, informal information and define skill sets. Introductions are simple and focused away from roles and work titles. * Break the larger group into smaller subgroups of three to six people who should not be well acquainted, and allow time for some personal discussion. Vision (2) * Request subgroups to discuss elements of the organization (or team) vision statement. * Bring subgroups together in the first round by recording their words on flip charts or electronic whiteboards. * Pull common themes and words from each round and synthesize information into a collective vision statement. Purposes (3), Beliefs * Use the process in Step 2 (4) and for Values (5), Steps 3 to 6. and Principles (6) * Ask subgroups to discuss beliefs, values and principles, and purposes in turn for each round (often participants have up to five rounds per concept). Identify Objectives (7) * Ask each subgroup to list the organization, project, and client s qualitative or quantitative objectives. * Use the same roundtable format as previous steps to develop concepts. * Bring subgroups together at the close of each round to unify or consolidate similar objectives (Masur, 1993). * Conclude by recording the agreed objectives on a flip chart or whiteboard. * Work with the whole group to rank objectives in order of priority. Review-Sign-On (8) * Review the subgroup information and consolidate key information about the objectives on flip charts or electronic whiteboards for a group review. * Encourage participants to walk around and sign their names to the objectives. * Ask them to place a personal rank on the importance of each objective they sign on to complete (Masur, 1993). * Record objectives on flip charts or whiteboards in order of priority. * Decide as a group how to handle objectives that are not signed by anyone, Suggest revisiting these issues at a later date, or drop them. Alternately, ask for a small volunteer group to take on the extra tasks. Link Objectives to * Work with each subgroup to Strategies (9) link objectives and strategies. * Form subgroups on the basis of names signed to objectives and begin developing a framework of strategies for each objective. (How should the objective be accomplished?) * Use the same roundtable format as previous steps. * Post the collection of strategies for a group review. Prepare for a Work Plan * Slow down the pace before (9) and Closure (10) the final product is handed out, and verbalizes what the group is thinking, What do I do now? Masur cites this step as critical in keeping the process on track (Masur, 1995). * Explain why the road map is just a guiding framework for the development of specific work plans in future planning sessions. DIAGRAM: Figure 1. Relationship Among Management Approaches DIAGRAM: Figure 2. Alignment in Project Management (A and B) DIAGRAM: Figure 3. The SMART Project Model DIAGRAM: Figure 4. Communication Nerve Model DIAGRAM: Figure 5. Roundtable Road-Mapping Model References <#toc> Books Mills, R.W., & Turner, J.R. (1995). Projects for shareholder value. The Commercial Project Manager. New York: McGraw-Hill. Quinn, J.B. (1992). Intelligent enterprise. New York: Free Press. 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Ilincutta, Adrian, & Hartman, Francis. (1996). Risk management and success for software industry. Presentation Summary. Calgary, Alberta: The University of Calgary. Masur, L.C. (1993). Roadmaps and round tables: Strategic planning for small to mid sized non-governmental organizations. Camrose, Alberta: Canadian Centre for Quality Improvement. Veltrop, W., & Yost, B. (1988). The Roadmap Model. Unpublished. Internet (Electronic Documents) <#toc> Ashkenas, R., Ulrich, D., Jick, T., & Kerr, S. (1995). The boundaryless organization. Available from Internet: http://www.mgmt.utoronto.ca/zzwensle/reviews/bprev1b.html. Bartlett, C., & Ghoshal, S. (1996). Beyond the M-form: Toward a management theory of the firm. Available from Internet: http://www.gsia.cmu.edu/bosch/bart.html. Jessup, Leonard M., ed. (1996). Pushing the GSS envelope: Distributed collaboration for virtual teams on the world wide web. Available from Internet: http://ezinfo.ucs.indiana.edu/zzljessup/gw cent3.html. Knoll, Kathleen, & Jarvenpaa, Sirkka L. (1996). Learning to work in distributed global teams. Available from Internet: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/zzbgac313/hicss.html. Landay, William. (1996). Extended enterprises spell success. Available from Internet: http://www.reengineering.com/articles/may96/extenter.html. Contacts <#toc> Hartman, Francis. (1996). Informal meeting notes. The University of Calgary, Calgary Alberta. Phone: 403/220-7178. Masur, Chuck. (February 1995). Academic Computing Services. The University of Calgary. Calgary, AB, Canada. E-mail: cmasur@acs.ucalgary.ca. ~~~~~~~~ By Connie L. Guss, The University of Calgary, Department of Civil Engineering, 2500 University Avenue NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4 Canada Connie Guss is a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering, specializing in project management, at The University of Calgary. She is scheduled to complete her Ph.D. in summer 1998. She holds two bachelors from the University of Victoria in kinesiology and a double major in environmental studies/social psychology. Ms. Guss also holds an M.S. in natural resource management from The University of Calgary. She is a principal of Guss Environmental Consulting Group. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright of Project Management Journal is the property of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. Back