Monday, October 6, 2008

Identifying Project Constraints

Everyone has constraints on decision-making and action. During project organizational planning, there are many constraints to consider. Some of the most common constraints on decision-making are the organizational structure, collective bargaining agreements, the preferences of the project management team, and expected staff assignments.

Organizational structure
Organizational structure can be a constraint. The level of authority given to a project manager is largely dependent on the organizational structure, which may be functional, matrix, or fully projectized.
  • Functional structure - In a functional structure, personnel are grouped hierarchically by speciality.
  • Matrix structure - In a matrix structure, project managers share responsibility with functional managers.
  • Fully projectized structure - In a fully projectized structure, project managers have total authority.
Collective bargaining agreements
Collective bargaining agreements are another potential constraint. Written agreements with unions or other employee groups ensure that you don't ask anything of your team that goes beyond what the union has agreed is appropriate. For example, a union may require that certain employees be hired, or it may set boundaries concerning work done by members of the union. Union contracts may also limit work hours and travel and time away from an employee's designated job.

The preferences of the project management team
Team preferences may also be a constraint. A team may be used to functioning independently, and individual team members may resist the changes brought about by interdepartmental interaction.

Expected staff assignments
Expected staff assignments are constraints placed on you and your team from the larger organization. When someone above you expects you to use certain people on your team, you then have the constraint of a pre-selected team. A pre-selected team limits a project manager in a variety of ways. Expected staff assignments can hinder a project when tasks are assigned based on criteria other than competency, the required competencies of the project team are changed, and the chemistry of the project team is altered.

It may seem logical that competency should be the overriding factor in team selection. Unfortunately, organizations themselves are under the constraint of staff availability. There may be redundant employees who have not yet been reassigned to a new full-time position. Projects end at different times. If one ends just as yours is beginning, your project is a convenient new placement for these employees.

Overcoming project constraints resulting from organizational structure, collective bargaining agreements, team preferences, and expected staff assignments is possible when you learn to view constraints as a challenge. When you understand the constraints placed on you, you can plan your strategy to take advantage of the human and material resources at your disposal.

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