Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Methods for Charting Project Relationships

An organization chart shows you, in an instant, all the relationships within a company. It allows you to clearly see the layout of people and departments for an entire organization.

An organization chart is any graphic manifestation of project reporting relationships. It gives you the big picture of how your project fits into the overall activity of the organization. It shows the relationships:
  • between resources of the project management system
  • of formal authority between groups and individuals.
Organization charts can be formal or informal, highly detailed or broadly framed. The place of individuals within boxes on the organization chart shows broad working relationships. The connecting lines between boxes indicate formal chains of command and lines of communication between individuals.

Organization charts vary dramatically from one organization to another. They do, however, have some basic elements in common. For example:
  • All members of the project are identified, including stakeholders.
  • Data can be formal, informal, detailed, or general.
  • Direct relationships between people are shown with a solid line.
  • A dotted line indicates an indirect relationship, or a relationship that has not been clearly defined.
Organization charts offer project managers several important benefits. For starters, they show you the overall framework of the organization and indicate where project members fit into the organization. They also reveal the basic relationships between project team members, and they explain formal lines of authority (reporting relationships).

There are also drawbacks to using a traditional organization chart. For example, a traditional organization chart:
  • doesn't show the nature and limits of the activities required to attain project objectives
  • doesn't show the reciprocal relationships between people, which often occur within a project
  • may not accurately reflect the structure throughout the project because it is often out of date very quickly
  • may confuse people, as the pyramidal structure may portray a false sense of status and prestige.
Charts vary because organizations and projects vary. There are specific organization charts that give you added information. These charts help you as you plan. One such plan is an Organizational Breakdown Structure Chart (OBS)

An OBS identifies the roles and responsibilities of the individual as well as those of the collective project unit. And OBS is a concise description of the organizational interfaces. It illustrates:
  • who the project participants are, the extent of their involvement, and their authority
  • when decisions should be made or activities performed
  • who has authority when team members share common work
  • work packages or tasks necessary for project success.
And OBS is time consuming to prepare, but gives you more valuable information than a standard organizational chart.

A standard organization chart or Organizational Breakdown Structure Chart provides you with concise information concerning responsibility relationships within an organization. Both types of charts provide a useful tool of reference for everyone involved in the project.

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