Interface Management

A complete description of the project interfaces can be shown by mapping all dependencies in the project together with the average uncertainty faced by each group/person. Similarly, the different phases of the project life cycle can be displayed using TREND, and can be examined to see what problems might arise within particular time periods. For instance, the work of a particular group might consist mostly of work having low uncertainty, but at project startup, for example, the group may be assigned to some high uncertainty tasks. The PM would give this group special attention during startup in order to react quickly to problems that arose during that period, but could afford to relax attention to this specific group during other phases of the project's life cycle. This pattern of high uncertainty followed by low uncertainty is common. Design of the foundation for a large building may have high uncertainty until test borings are completed, and low uncertainty thereafter. The same is true for most R&D projects, there being high uncertainty until an approach is proven, and then low uncertainty.

Problems also tend to occur when a high-prestige group is dependent on a low-prestige group, when a high-uncertainty task follows another high-uncertainty task, when complex multiple uncertainties exist, and so on. The various combinations of uncertainty and group prestige differentials have various potentials for problems and can best be controlled by managerial strategies formulated specifically to deal with unique situations. Table 5-1 describes some potential interface problems in Figure 5-10 together with possible managerial solutions.

Table 5-1 Analysis of TREND Overlay


1. Industrial Engs. and Project Engs.—self-dependencies.

2. Quality Control Mgr./Q.C. Supervisor—same functional areas, same low uncertainty, low status depends on high status.

3. Q.C. Mgr./Tool Design—different functional areas, mixed uncertainty, low status depends on high status.

4. Personnel MgrVMachinist—different functional area, low uncertainty, high status depends on low status.

5. Project Engineer/Purchasing Mgr.—different functional area, mixed uncertainty, reciprocal dependence, different status.

.. 6. Tool designers/Purchasing Mgr.—different functional area, same high uncertainty, different status, reciprocal dependence.

7. Project Eng. Mgr./Project

Engineers—same functional area, high status depends on low, same low uncertainty.

Coordination Required

Monitor internal coordination.

Depend on planning, regular coordination.

Set up interfunctional system for coordination. Monitor regularly.

Interface as coordinator and translator.

Set up regular review meetings for coordination. Project manager chairs meetings.

Set up regular review meetings. Plant eng. mgr. and purch. mgr. to rotate chairing meeting. Perhaps include the project engineers in the meeting.

Depend on regular authority and information structure. Stay informed. Encourage frequent discussion.

TREND is hardly a complete system for interface management and its full-scale, formal use is rarely justified, but the conceptual approach is valuable. Experienced PMs are aware of many of the problems TREND exposes, but the technique provides an excellent framework for the inexperienced and a check for "old hands." For an excellent discussion of the behavioral problems in interface management as well as the entire project implementation process, see [29],


In this chapter we initiated planning for the project in terms of identifying and addressing the tasks required for project completion. We emphasized the importance of initial coordination of all parties involved and the smooth interpretation of the various systems required to achieve the project objectives. Last, we described some tools such as the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the linear responsibility chart, the action plan, TREND, and the Gozinto chart to aid in the planning process.

Specific points made in the chapter were these:

• The preliminary work plans are important because they serve as the basis for personnel selection, budgeting, scheduling, and control.

• Top management should be represented in the initial coordinating meeting where technical objectives are established, participant responsibility is accepted, and preliminary budgets and schedules are defined.

• The approval and change processes are complex and should be handled by the project manager.

• Common elements of the project plan are the overview, statement of objectives, general approach, contractual requirements, schedules, budget, cost control procedures, evaluation procedures, and potential problems.

• Systems integration concerns the smooth coordination of project systems in terms of cost, performance, and effectiveness.

• The hierarchical approach to project planning is most appropriate and can be aided by a tree diagram of project subsets, called a Gozinto chart, and a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS relates the details of each subtask to its task and provides the final basis for the project budget, schedule, personnel, and control.

• A linear responsibility chart is often helpful to illustrate the relationship of personnel to project tasks and to identify where coordination is necessary.

• A tool particularly helpful in identifying potential interface and coordination problems is the TREND organization chart overlay, based on differences in status or prestige level, task dependence, and uncertainty.

Based on the now-established project plan and WBS, we can consider the task of negotiating for the resources to implement the project. This topic completes Part 1 of the text.


Baseline Plan—The nominal plan to which deviations will be compared.

Bill of Materials—The set of physical elements required to build a product.

Control Chart—A graph showing how a statistic is changing over time compared to its average and extreme values.

Deliverables—The physical items to be delivered from a project. This typically includes reports and plans as well as physical objects.

Earned Value—A measure of project progress, frequently related to tasks accomplished and milestones, achieved.

Effectiveness—Achieving the objectives set before-, hand; to be distinguished from efficiency, which

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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.

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