Pure Project Organization

6. Because authority is centralized, the ability to make swift decisions is greatly enhanced. The entire project organization can react more rapidly to the requirements of the client and the needs of senior management.

7. Unity of command exists. While it is easy to overestimate the value of this particular organizational principle, there is little doubt that the quality of life for subordinates is enhanced when each subordinate has one, and only one, boss.

8. Pure project organizations are structurally simple and flexible, which makes them relatively easy to understand and to implement.

9. The organizational structure tends to support a holistic approach to the project. A brief explanation of the systems approach was given in Chapter 3, and an example of the problems arising when the systems approach is not used appears in Section 4.3 of this chapter. The dangers of focusing on and optimizing the project's subsystems rather than the total project are often a major cause of technical failure in projects.

While the advantages of the pure project organization make a powerful argument favoring this structure, its disadvantages are also serious-.

1. When the parent organization takes on several projects, it is common for each one to be fully staffed. This can lead to considerable duplication of effort in every area from clerical staff to the most sophisticated (and expensive) technological support units. If a project does not require a full-time personnel manager, for example, it must have one nonetheless because personnel managers come in integers, not fractions, and staff are not shared across projects.

2. In fact, the need to ensure access to technological knowledge and skills results in an attempt by the PM to stockpile equipment and technical assistance in order to be certain that it will be available when needed. Thus, people with critical technical skills may be hired by the project when they are available rather than when they are needed. Similarly, they tend to be maintained on the project longer than needed, "just in case."

3. Removing the project from technical control by a functional department has its advantages, but it also has a serious disadvantage if the project is characterized as "high technology." Though individuals engaged with projects develop considerable depth in the technology of the project, they tend to fall behind in other areas of their technical expertise. The functional division is a repository of technical lore, but it is not readily accessible to members of the pure project team.

4. Pure project groups seem to foster inconsistency in the way in which policies and procedures are carried out. In the relatively sheltered environment of the project, administrative corner-cutting is common and easily justified as a response to the client or to technical exigency. "They don't understand our problems" becomes an easy excuse for ignoring dicta from headquarters.

5. In pure project organizations, the project takes on a life of its own. Team members form strong attachments to the project and to each other. A disease known as projectitis develops. A strong we-they divisiveness grows, distorting the relationships between project team members and their counterparts in the parent organization. Friendly rivalry may become bitter competition, and political infighting between projects is common.

6. Another symptom of projectitis is the worry about "life after the project ends." Typically, there is considerable uncertainty about what will happen when the project is completed. Will team members be laid off? Will they be assigned to low-prestige work? Will their technical skills be too rusty to be successfully integrated into other projects? Will our team (that old gang of mine) be broken up?


In an attempt to couple some of the advantages of the pure project organization with some of the desirable features of the functional organization, and to avoid some of the disadvantages of each, the matrix organization was developed, in effect, the functional and the pure project organizations represent extremes. The matrix organization is a combination of the two. It is a pure project organization overlaid on the functional divisions of the parent firm.

Being a combination of pure project and functional organization structures, a matrix organization can take on a wide variety of specific forms, depending on which of the two extremes (functional or pure project) it most resembles. Because it is simpler to explain, let us first consider a strong matrix, one that is similar to a pure project. Rather than being a stand-alone organization, like the pure project, the matrix project is not separated from the parent organization. Consider Figure 4-3. The project manager of Project 1, PM,, reports to a program manager who also exercises supervision over other projects.

Project 1 has assigned to it three people from the manufacturing division, one and one-half people from marketing, one-half of a person each from finance and

Figure 4-3: Matrix organization.
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.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment