Project Management: Operational vs. project approach

    In one of the comments on the post of the author, respected by Habr users, I replied that the main reason for the failure of the project is not the use of the methodology “through% opu” or “how it will turn out”, but the presence of only operational management within the project. The project approach for such managers ends after drawing up a project estimate.
    In this post I will conduct a more detailed comparison of the operational approach with the design one.

    Project management levels

    1. The operational level is the level of operations lasting several hours (usually called “tasks”) and problems that arise as these tasks are completed. At this level, a lot of "little things" accumulate, there is no time to think here, you need to quickly perform.
    2. The design level is the level of work lasting several days, work blocks and control points. At this level, you need to analyze more, predict, rather than launch a task into work. Problems are also solved here, additional work with risks is carried out.
    3. The program level is the level of the project curator or program / portfolio manager, who is less immersed in the project, and as a rule he is interested in passing control points, solving major problems and risks.
    4. Manual control. This is the simplest, but also the most influential approach compared to others. If the "leader" gave the order, then it is mandatory for execution, it does not matter what is in the plans and programs. All work is based on the instructions of the manager. No errands - no job.
    Attention! All of these approaches are used in project management, and not just one specific one.


    Manual control
    Image - indicate with your hand what to do.

    Operational management
    Image - conveyor.
    We customize the operation of the conveyor. We formulate the tasks, transfer them to the conveyor, and then he independently distributes them among the freed team members.
    The main principle: "Normal do - normal and will be."

    Project Management
    Image - a professional game of billiards, when a player makes a game with a cue.
    You need to calculate the entire series and add it to the cue.
    If you entered the next ball incorrectly, then before you score the next ball, you must re-calculate the series and only after that score the balls.
    That is, in project management you should not only carry out operational management (to score balls), but also to calculate the situation several moves ahead, always focusing on the last ball (the final result).

    Horizons of thinking

    Even if you use the most sophisticated systems to manage tasks and projects, then your brain, again, even at the prompt of a computer, is not able to manage all the tasks contained in these systems. Therefore, a limited proportion of information will fall into your field of vision.
    The following is a comparison of horizons of thinking for the operational and project management levels.

    Operational level

    At this level, the manager usually has a list of tasks. Having closed one task, the manager transfers the next task to the released employee. For himself, the manager usually identifies the primary tasks and again transfers them to the conveyor, on which members of the project team work.
    So, the horizon of thinking is a set of priority operations (“tasks”)

    Design level

    The project approach implies the control of the entire project as a whole. However, in practice, for projects lasting about a year or more, it is not always advisable to keep the entire project in sight. Therefore, in such situations, the “approaching wave” method is used. First, one stage is taken into work, it is detailed on smaller works (lasting 2-3 months). Then the work is done to manage mainly only this stage. And then, when moving to the next stage, “the next wave comes” and the process repeats again. However, the project approach is not limited only to the management of the current stage, periodically you need to look into the distant future - the next stages.
    So, the horizon of thinking is the project stage (the whole project is for small projects).

    Execution control

    Why do we need control and what results of control should we get?

    Since the project is a limited activity, we should try to keep this project within the given framework. If this framework is not controlled, then most likely this project alone will not stay in them. In general, without border control, it may never end.
    “If you don’t know where you are sailing, then not one of the winds will be fair for you!” Reads Chinese folk wisdom.

    The results of the monitoring process should be the following information:
    - Status (what is done, what problems have occurred?)
    Content: what is done
    Timing: how much time was spent
    Cost: how much money was spent
    Changes: what kind of change requests appeared (with an assessment of the impact on the content / terms / cost)
    Problems: what problems arise
    and another

    - Deviations (what did not have time to fulfill or exceeded?)
    Content: what did not have time to fulfill / exceeded with respect to the planned
    timeframe: by how much time were behind / ahead of schedule ? how long does it take to finish the planned
    Cost: how much money has been overspended / saved? how much money is needed to complete the planned
    and other

    - Forecast (what will happen in the future, when and how will the milestones be passed, what problems can I have?)
    Contents: what results will be achieved in the future
    Timing: when the milestones will be reached
    Cost: how much money will be spent on the project at breakpoints
    Changes: the forecasts listed above should be made taking into account the inclusion of changes.
    Problems: what risks and how to react to them (risks are possible problems and opportunities in the future)
    and more

    How often to monitor?

    Monitoring operations - to conduct constantly.
    Project control - regularly (1 time per week, 1 time in 2 weeks).


    At the operational level, the manager manages only a small part of the project, as there are a lot of operations, leaving the rest of the project out of sight. He cannot objectively measure deviations and make forecasts for the entire project (or the project stage). And the fact that it is impossible to measure and cannot be foreseen cannot be controlled.
    At the project level, the manager measures deviations, makes project forecasts and, accordingly, can effectively manage this.

    Both of these approaches should be used in project activities.

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