Some of my readers will know that I am a huge fan of models: models that help explain, predict or optimise performance. I recently came across a new model (to me) developed by Dr Aaron Shenhar, formerly of The Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and Rutgers Business School.
In a rich and thought-provoking paper (that you can download from the website Dr Shenhar’s business, SPL) called ‘What is Strategic Project Leadership?’, is a summary of The Diamond Model for Project Adaptation. This is, I assume, at the heart of a book I have not yet read: ‘Reinventing Project Management: The Diamond Approach to Successful Growth & Innovation’ by Shenhar and Dov Dvir.
Shenhar and Dvir’s model identifies four dimensions against which we can assess a project. The pattern it creates (hence the name of the model) indicates the approach we should take to managing the project. They suggest a four point scale for each dimension, giving, in principle, 16 possible project fingerprints. In practice, it is the patterns and extremes that should driving our choices of how to configure a project. The dimensions are:
- Novelty – ranging from ‘derivative’ to ‘new-to-the-world’
- Technology – ranging from ‘low-tech’ to ‘super-high-tech’
- Complexity – ranging from ‘component level’ to ‘system of systems’
- Pace – ranging from ‘ regular’ to ‘blitz’
Assessing your project on these four scales allows you to create a diamond plot, which should guide you to thinking about the priorities for the style of project management.
This accords nicely with my thinking that a big part of a project manager’s role is to diagnose what are the two or three big levers that they need to be concentrating on in controlling each project. For some, it could be governance, risk, delivery schedule, quality, reporting, resource utilisation… All of them are important, but on each project, some will dominate.
What the Project Diamond gives you is a way to start thinking about your priorities and how to manage them, based on a systematic understanding of four vital characteristics. The authors also use it nicely to highlight the gap between how a project is being managed (‘actual style’) and how it ought to be managed (‘required style’). This makes it a powerful diagnostic tool for troubled projects. I have reproduced the example from Shenhar’s article, ‘What is SPL?’, below.
The ‘so what?’
This is a model all project managers can benefit from and the paper is also a compelling read, whether you are managing large or small projects. You will also find some other interesting articles on the SPL website; do take a look.