Potential for Type I & IV errors
Low acceptance: low use
Effectiveness of strategy
Type I error: Not taking an action when one should be taken. Type II error: Taking an action when none should be taken. Type III error: Taking the wrong action tsolving the wrong problem). Type IV error: Addressing the right problem, but solution is not used.
Figure 4: Strategy/tactics effectiveness matrix. Source: Schultz, Slevin and Pinto (1987).
A Type III error can be defined as solving the wrong problem, or "effectively" taking the wrong action. In this scenario, a problem is identified, or a project is desired, but because of a badly performed strategic sequence, the wrong problem is isolated, so the implemented project has little value—it does not address the intended target. Such situations often involve large expenditures of human and budgetary resources (tactics) for which there is inadequate initial planning and problem recognition (strategy).
A Type IV is the final kind of error common to project implementation: the action taken does solve the right problem, but the solution is not used. That is, if project management correctly identifies a problem, proposes an effective solution, and implements that solution using appropriate tactics—but the project is not used by the client for whom it was intended— then a Type IV error has occurred.
As Figure 4 suggests, each of these errors is most likely to occur given a particular set of circumstances.
• Cell 1: High Strategy/High Tactics. Cell 1 is the setting for projects rated effective in carrying out both strategy and tactics. Not surprisingly, most projects in this situation are successful.
• Cell 3: Low Strategy/Low Tactics. The reciprocal of the first is the third cell, where both strategic and tactical functions are inadequately performed. Projects in this cell have a high likelihood of failure.
• Cell 4: High Strategy/Low Tactics. The results of projects in the first two cells are intuitively obvious. Perhaps a more intriguing question concerns the likely outcomes for projects found in the "off diagonal" of Figure 4, namely, High Strategy/Low Tactics and Low Strategy/High Tactics. In Cell 4, the project strategy is effectively developed but subsequent tactics are ineffective. We would expect projects in this cell to have a strong tendency toward "errors of inaction" such as low acceptance and low use by organization members or clients for whom the project was intended. Once a suitable strategy has been determined, little is done in the way of tactical follow-up to operationalize the goals of the project or to "sell" the project to its prospective clients.
• Cell 2: Low Strategy/High Tactics. The final cell reverses the preceding one. Here, project strategy is poorly conceived or planning is inadequate, but tactical implementation is well managed. Projects in this cell often suffer from "errors of action." Because of poor strategy, a project may be pushed into implementation even though its purpose has not been clearly defined. In fact, the project may not even be needed. However, tactical follow-up is so good that the inadequate or unnecessary project is implemented. The managerial attitude is to "go ahead and do it"; not enough time is spent early in the project's life assessing whether the project is needed and developing the strategy.
In the section that follows, we discuss four instances in which strategic and tactical effectiveness were measured by project participants using the Project Implementation Profile. We caution that the results were reported in three instances by only one observer—the project manager—so they are obviously not meant as evidence in support of an argument, but rather as an illustration of distinct project-outcome types. In each case, a ten-factor profile is provided, using the actual scores from the PIP based on input from the project managers.
High Strategy/High Tactics: The New Alloy Development One department of a large organization was responsible for coordinating the development and production of new stainless steel alloys for the automotive exhaust market. This task meant overseeing the efforts of the metallurgy, research, and operations departments. The project grew out of exhaust component manufacturers' demands for more formable alloys. Because this product line represented a potentially significant portion of the company's market, the project was given high priority.
As Figure 5(a) demonstrates, the scores for this project as assessed by the project team member were uniformly high across the ten critical success factors. Because of the importance of the project, its high priority was communicated to all personnel, and this led to a strong sense of project mission and top management support. The strategy was clear and was conveyed to all concerned parties, including the project
Top management support Project schedule
Monitoring and feedback
Top management support Project schedule
Monitoring and feedback
Percentile rankings 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Percentile rankings :
Top management support Project schedule
Percentile rankings 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Percentile rankings :
Figure 5: (a) High strategy/high tactics project, (b) Low strategy/low tactics project, (c) High strategy/low tactics project, (d) Low strategy/high tactics project.
team, which was actively involved in early planning meetings. Because the project team would include personnel from research, metallurgy, operations, production. and commercial departments, great care was taken in its selection and coordination. Use throughout the project team of action plans and daily exception reports was reflected in high scores on Technical Tasks and Trouble Shooting.
In the new alloy development project, a strong, well-conceived strategy was combined with highly competent tactical follow-up. The seeds of project success were planted during the conceptual and plan" ning stages and were allowed to grow to their potential through rigorous project execution. Success in, this project can be measured in terms of technical excellence and client use, as well as project team sat isfaction and commercial profitability. In a recent follow-up interview, a member of a major competitor admitted that the project was so successful that the company still has a virtual lock on the automotive exhaust market.
Low Strategy/Low Tactics: The Automated Office
A small, privately owned company was attempting to move from a nonautomated paper system to a fully integrated, automated office that would include purchasing, material control, sales order, and accounting systems. The owner's son, who had no previous experience with computers, was hired as MIS director. His duties consisted of selecting hardware and software, directing installation, and learning enough about the company to protect the family's interests. Figure 5(b) shows a breakdown of the ten critical success factors as viewed by a project team member.
Several problems emerged immediately. Inadequate "buy-in" on the part of organization members, perceived nepotism, and lack of interaction with other top managers in purchasing decisions were seen as problems while the project was still in its strategy phase. A total lack of a formal schedule or implementation plan emphasized other strategic inadequacies destined to lead to tactical problems as well.
Tactically, the project was handled no better. Other departments that were expected to use the system were not consulted about their specific needs; the system was simply forced upon them. Little effort was made to develop project control and trouble-shooting mechanisms, perhaps as a direct result of inadequate scheduling.
Project results were easy to predict. As the team member indicated and Figure 5(b) reinforces, the project was over budget, behind schedule, and coolly received—all in all, an expensive failure. The owner's son left the company, the manager of the computer department was demoted, the mainframe computers "ere found to be wholly inadequate and were sold, and upper management forfeited a considerable amount of employee goodwill.
High Strategy/Low Tactics: The New Bank Loan Setup The purpose of this project was to restructure 'he loan procedures used at a major bank. The project intended to eliminate duplicate work done by branches and the servicing department and to stream-™e loan processes. These goals were developed and strongly supported by upper management, which had dearly conveyed them to all concerned parties. The project was kicked off with a great deal of fanfare; there was a high expectation of speedy and successful completion. Trouble started when the project was turned over to a small team that had not been privy to the initial planning, goal setting, and scheduling meetings. In fact, the project team leader was handed the project after only three months with the company.
Project tactics were inadequate from the beginning. The team was set up without any formal feedback channels and with few communication links with either the rest of the organization or top management. The project was staffed on an ad hoc basis, often with nonessential personnel from other departments. This staffing method resulted in a diverse team with conflicting loyalties. The project leader was never able to pull the team together.
As the project leader put it, "Although this project hasn't totally failed, it is in deep trouble." Figure 5(c) illustrates the breakdowns for the project as reported by two team members. Almost from the start of its tactical phase, the project suffered from the team's inability to operationalize the initial goals. This failure caused frustration both within the project team and throughout the rest of the organization. The frustration resulted from having a clear idea of the initial goals without having prescribed the means to achieve them. As of this writing, the project continues to stagger along, with cost overruns and constantly revised schedules. Whether or not it achieves its final performance goals, this project will be remembered with little affection by the rest of the organization.
Low Strategy/High Tactics: The New Appliance Development A large manufacturing company initiated the development of a new kitchen appliance to satisfy what upper management felt would be a consumer need in the near future. The project was perceived as the pet idea of a divisional president and was rushed along without adequate market research or technical input from the R&D department. A project team was formed to develop the product and rush it to the marketplace.
Figure 5(d) shows the breakdowns of the ten critical success factors for this project. Organizational and project team commitment was low. Other members of upper management felt the project was being pushed along too fast and refused to get behind it. Initial planning and scheduling developed by the divisional president and his staff were totally unrealistic.
What happened next was interesting. It was turned over to an experienced, capable manager who succeeded in taking the project, which had gotten off to such a shaky start, and successfully implementing it. He reopened channels of communication within the organization, bringing R&D and marketing on board. He met his revised schedule and budget, using trouble-shooting and control mechanisms. Finally, he succeeded in getting the project to the market in a reasonable time frame.
In spite of the project manager's effective tactics, the product did not do well in the market. As it turned out, there was little need for it at the time, and second-generation technology would make it obsolete within a year. This project was highly frustrating to project team members, who felt, quite correctly, that they had done everything possible to achieve success. Through no fault of their own, this project was doomed by the poor strategic planning. All the tactical competence in the world could not offset the fact that the project was poorly conceived and indifferently supported, resulting in an "error of action" |6|.
These cases, and the strategy/tactics effectiveness matrix, suggest practical implications for managers wishing to better control project implementation.
Use a multiple-factor model. Project management is a complex task requiring attention to many variables. The more specific a manager can be regarding the definition and monitoring of those variables, the greater the likelihood of successful project outcome. It is important to use a multiple-factor model to do this, first to understand the variety of factors affecting project success, then to be aware of their relative importance across project implementation stages |7|. This article offers such a model: ten critical success factors that fit into a process framework of project implementation; within the framework, different factors become more critical to project success at different points in the project life cycle.
Additionally, both the project team and clients need to perform regular assessments to determine the "health" of the project. The time for accurate feedback is when the project is beginning to develop difficulties that can be corrected, not down the road when the troubles have become insurmountable. Getting the project team as well as the clients to perform status checks has the benefit of giving insights from a variety of viewpoints, not just that of the project manager. Further, it reinforces the goals the clients have in mind, as well as their perceptions of whether the project satisfies their expectations.
Think strategically early in the project life cycle.
It is important to consider strategic factors early in the project life cycle, during conceptualization and planning. As a practical suggestion, organizations implementing a project should bring the manager and his or her team on board early. Many managers make the mistake of not involving team members in early planning and conceptual meetings, perhaps assuming that the team members should only concern themselves with their specific jobs. In fact, it is very important that at an early stage both the manager and the team members "buy in" to the goals of the project and the means to achieve those goals. The more team members are aware of the goals, the greater the likelihood of their taking an active part in monitoring and trouble shooting.
Think more tactically as the project moves forward in time. As Figure 4 shows in the later project stages, strategy and tactics are of almost equal importance to project implementation success. Consequently, it is important that the project manager shift the team's emphasis from "What do we do?" to "How do we want to do it?" The specific critical success factors associated with project tactics tend to reemphasize the importance of focusing on the "how" instead of the "what." Factors such as personnel, communication, and monitoring are concerned with better managing specific action steps in the project implementation process. While we argue that it is important to bring the project team on board during the initial strategy phase, it is equally important to manage their shift into a tactical, action mode in which their specific project duties are performed to help move the project toward completion.
Consciously plan for and communicate the transition from strategy to tactics. Project monitoring will include an open, thorough assessment of progress at several stages of implementation. The assessment: must acknowledge that the transition from a strategic to a tactical focus introduces an additional set of cnti-. cal success factors.
Project managers should regularly communicate with team members about the shifting status or focus of the project. Communication reemphasizes the im- . portance of a joint effort, and it reinforces the status of the project relative to its life cycle. The team is kept aware of the degree of strategic versus tactical activity, necessary to move the project to the next life-cycle stage. Finally, communication helps the manager to track the various activities performed by the proiect-.. team, making it easier to verify that strategic vision is not lost in the later phases of tactical operationally tion.
Make strategy and tactics work for you and your protect team. Neither strong strategy nor strong tactics by themselves will ensure project success. When strategy is strong and tactics are weak, there is a potential for creating projects that never get off the ground. Cost and schedule overruns, along with general frustration, are often the side effects of projects that encounter "errors of inaction." On the other hand, a project that starts off with a weak or poorly conceived strategy and receives strong subsequent tactical operationalization is likely to be successfully implemented, but to address the wrong problem. New York advertising agencies can tell horror stories of advertising campaigns that were poorly conceived but still implemented, sometimes costing millions of dollars, and that were ultimately judged disastrous and scrubbed.
In addition to having project strategy and tactics working together, it is important to remember (again following Figure 3) that strategy should be used to "drive" tactics. Strategy and tactics are not independent of each other. At no point do strategic factors become unimportant to project success; instead, they must be continually assessed and reassessed over the life of the project in light of new project developments and changes in the external environment.
Tfte authors wisfi to acknowledge the comments of Robert W. Zmud and an anonymous reviewer on a draft of this article.
1- The four-stage project life cycle is based on work by 1. Adams and S. Barndt "Behavorial
Implications of the Project Life Cycle," in Project
Management Handbook, eds., D, 1. Cleland and W. R. King (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983), pp. 222-244.
2. For an alternative methodology for the development of critical success factors for the implementation of organizational systems, see the work of M. Shank, A. Boynton, and R. W. Zmud, "Critical Success Factor Analysis as a Methodology for MIS Planning." MIS Quarterly, lune 1985, pp. 121-129. See further, A. Boynton and R. W. Zmud, "An Assessment of Critical Success Factors," Sloan Management Review, Summer 1984, pp. 17-27.
3. D. P. Slevin and I. K. Pinto, "The Project Implementation Profile: New Tool for Project Managers," Project Management Journal, 17 (1986): 57-70.
4. I. K. Pinto and D. P. Slevin, "Critical Factors in Successful Project Implementation," IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, EM-34, Feb. 1987, pp. 22-27.
5. 1. K. Pinto, "Project Implementation: A Determination of Its Critical Success Factors, Moderators, and Their Relative Importance across Stages in the Project Life Cycle" (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, unpublished doctoral dissertation, 1986).
7. For a copy of the full 100-item Project Implementation Profile, see Slevin and Pinto (1986).
8. R. L. Schultz, D. P. Slevin, and 1. K. Pinto, "Strategy and Tactics in a Process Model of Project Implementation," Interfaces, May-lune 1987, pp. 34-46.
Was this article helpful?
What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.