What Kind of Project?


Since the planning approach we adopt for a project depends upon the type of project we have,  we need to address this issue. An interesting way to classify projects (attributed to J.R. Turner and R.A. Cochrane 1993) is to consider two critical aspects of the project:

  • the objectives
  • the methods to be used in the project

This will give four combinations as shown in the diagram below.

Examining projects this way will help us to select the appropriate planning process and to understand the problems we may encounter in that process. 

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Earth - Type 1 - Engineering Project

In type 1 projects both the goals and the methods are well defined. Examples of type 1 projects are large engineering projects, labeled here as "Earth" projects because they have a "good foundation"  Since both the goals and methods are well defined and supported by considerable experience and well tested methodology this type of project has a high probability of success.

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Water - Type 2 - Product Development Projects

In type 2 the goals are well defined but the methods by which they will be achieved are not. They are typified by product development work which flow like turbulent rivers with a sense of purpose but apparently haphazard. They are characterized as "water" projects.

Fire - Type 3 - Software Development Projects

In type 3 projects the goals are not well defined but the methods are. For example, in software development projects, goals are often not specified precisely at the start of the project. These become defined as the product develops and as alpha and beta versions of the product are tested on prospective users. These have been labeled "fire "projects. They generate a lot of heat and can burn with no apparent purpose.

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Air - Type 4 - Organizational Development

In type 4 projects neither the goals or the methods are well defined at the start of the project. They are typified by organization development projects and called "air" projects because they are so difficult to get hold of and deliver "blue-sky" research objectives.