Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Is your work environment dynamic?

If you are working in a dynamic environment then some of the dynamic project management techniques in this blog might be useful to you, but how do you know you are working in a dynamic environment?

Lets contrast two extremes, … a project in a static environment with one in a dynamic environment…

Table 1 - Comparing static with dynamic (Collyer 2013, p142)

Static Environments

Stability Is the Norm

Dynamic Environments

Rapid Change Is the Norm

The future is mostly predictable

Goals are stationary

Environment is relatively static – changes yearly or over decades

The future is difficult to predict

Goals are moving

High technology –

changes daily or weekly

Change brings more harm than good

Allowing change is mostly damaging

Change brings more good than harm

Resisting change is mostly damaging

Work is directable like a bullet –

like a factory production line

Work is guidable like a missile like –

cars in traffic guided by drivers, rules and signs

Business cases stay valid

Business cases change constantly

Strategic input is required at the start

Strategic input is required throughout

Goal Achievement

Targeting system compatible with stability of target

Aimed bullet 

Aim, aim, fire

A detailed plan hits a stationery target

Initial plan focuses on maximum accuracy


An accurate plan saves repetition

Goal: Time/cost/quality

Guided Missile

Aim, fire, aim

Rapid feedback hits a moving target

Initial plan focus on expedient adequacy

An adjustable plan achieves expedience

Goal: Optimised business benefits



Control approaches compatible with predictability of environment

Control with detailed plans,-  processes and checklists

Guide with a framework plan, -boundaries, inputs, goals, discussions

Higher emphasis on control to achieve goals (reduce change)

Higher emphasis on adaption to achieve goals (relinquish some control)



Project duration compatible with component product lifecycles

Gain economies of scale with size

Achieve relevance with quick iterative releases




Flexible, collaborative, organic, adaptive



Authoritarian, tall hierarchy

Planned, strict, structured

Stakeholders expect and –

understand static environments


Formal framework, informal core

Collaborative, flat hierarchy

Organic, experimental, adaptive

Stakeholders expect and –

understand dynamic environments



Rapid Informal complimenting Less Regular Formal

Only formal counts

Slow, formal, thorough

Tall hierarchy

Formal informs informal

Mix of formal and informal

Includes rapid, informal, and practical

Flat hierarchy

Informal and formal inform each other



Exploratory Vision driven using Collaboration and Delegation

Drives down path

Clear view of path

Highly structured

Knows the path

Leads a hierarchy

Plans dictated centrally

Manages with plan

Workers follow plan

Team driven from above

Explores around the path

Clear vision of destination

Highly adaptable

Knows the jungle

Collaborates with a team

Actions decided by team

Guides with intent

Specialists deliver vision

Team pursues goals


Decision Making

Rapid – adequate – in time

Decisions focused on accuracy

Accuracy achieves lasting perfection

Intent and objectives set at top

Decisions made at the top based –

on information passed up the – hierarchy

Action taken when confident of –right  decision

Planning for the next stage occurs – when execution for previous stage is complete


Decisions focused on expedience

Speed capitalises on fleeting opportunity

Intent and objectives set at top

Decisions made in the middle –by experts with situational/subject –

matter knowledge

Action taken in time to capitalise –

on fleeting opportunities

Planning for the next stage occurs in –parallel with execution, and some –decisions prepared in advance based –on intelligence gathering on possible –outcomes

The reality is most projects lie somewhere in between these two extremes, and so we need to use professional judgement to work out which techniques to apply to a given project.

Simon Collyer


Collyer, S. (2013). Managing Dynamism in Projects - A Theory-Building Study of Approaches Used in Practice, The University of Queensland. PhD

Collyer, S., Warren, C., Hemsley, B., & Stevens, C. (2010). Aim Fire Aim - Project Planning Styles in Dynamic Environments Project Management Journal, 41(4), 108-121. doi: 10.1002/pmj.20199

Collyer, S., Warren, C. M. J. (2009). Project Management Approaches for Dynamic Environments, International Journal of Project Management, 27(4), 355-364