Organizational Theory and Project Management

By Ammar W. Mango

One way to look at Project Management is a means to realize effective delivery from the organization(s). Delivering through layers of organizational hierarchy is not easy especially if the organization was setup for operational work without much consideration to project work. Because of challenges faced by organizations worldwide in delivering successful projects, most have revisited their organization structure to accommodate project delivery. Organizations usually start making changes hastily, based on traditional recommendations like changes a functional structure into a weak, balanced or strong matrix. Some even go the projectized route. There is lots of information about how to affect such changes in the organization so I am not planning to talk about that.

Instead, let us talk about some of the new methods that are out there that can help the organization deliver projects in a more effective fashion.

One of the options is to organize projects into programs and assign a program manager and create a program management office to oversee the program. The advantage of this relatively new route is the executive perspective the program manager brings to the table through focusing on value and benefits and sustainability instead of just focusing on deliverables. For this to work, experienced program managers must be assigned and must report to a sponsor at the right level in the organization to properly support the program.

Another option that I believe we will see more often in the future is an “organizational circles” setup where organizational circles are formed at different levels in the organization to support the project. So, one project circle would include the project manager and the team leaders and team members. A higher level circle will include the project manager, functional managers, and maybe the Project Management Officer, another circle might include an executive steering committee, for more important projects, which includes executives and upper management members. If an organization takes this route, it is important to define clearly governance for these circles, and ensure accountability. I like this method as it avoids having to deal with organizational structure changes, and focuses on getting the project completed successfully, with the right level of rigor and support vertically and horizontally through the organization. another advantage of this technique is that it works nicely when multiple organizations are involved, with different approach to managing projects which might cause conflict or confusion on the project. Bringing members from different organizations into the circles allow flexibility in charting circle rules, instead of being tied to different organizational rules. If any work is outsourced, it is important and crucial to bring in suppliers as well as clients into the circles.

The important thing in any setup is to clearly define governance, escalation, accountability, and where subject matter expertise will come from.

Ammar W. Mango, CSSBB, PgMP, PMP is an Organizational Project Management Consultant at Method ( You can read more from Ammar on his blog.

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