Project Geography Part One: Urban and Suburban
The way civilization works inside its geography is a metaphor for the way projects work in the business world. A large civilization executes projects with long-term efficiency (think the Great Wall of China) while a small village executes projects with short term maneuverability (think 19th century American Indians).
I like to explain this better by using the four types of communities within human civilization - urban, suburban, rural, and ultra-rural. For example, consider a person living in an urban city and someone living in an ultra-rural village. How they deal with geography is not the same. Project management can similarly be “urban,” having easy access to plenty of resources, or it can be “ultra-rural,” faced by the hardships and inconveniences of the untamed world. To fully explain this, I have broken each subject into four sections, two of which will be covered in this article, and two which will be covered in a follow-up article. This article covers those projects that are urban and suburban.
The person living in an urban city has access to almost anything. He or she can have pizza delivered to a high-rise apartment at midnight. He or she can ride a bus to work and school. For entertainment, there are movie theaters, dance clubs, parks, and shopping malls. In order to get these things, there is hardly any geographical feature in the way. If the weather is bad, that is not an issue either. People just take the subway.
Projects can be urban. This is when resources are easily accessible or when productivity tools are always at hand. IT projects are this way often. The work in an IT project can be outsourced, brought right to the door like delivery pizza. When the project requires extra attention, the project manager, like a doctor, is just around the corner equipped with the right tools. Perhaps it is even automated, like smoke alarms with sprinklers. Something goes wrong, and someone or something is automatically present to fix it. If a project requires an intensive operation, it is just a block away from professional services.
Someone living in a suburban city can still get pizza but it doesn’t include the deal that says, “if it takes over thirty minutes, its free.” He or she can go to work, school, and the mall in the city, but it takes some time to get there. Suburban travel is much more prone to geography than in an urban system.
Projects can be suburban. The resources and tools are available, yet the convenience isn’t quite the same. It takes extra time to accomplish tasks or to go through the governance processes. There isn’t a subway or major bus system to get to places. One must drive manually.
Perhaps such projects are like those of retail stores. Say, for example, a new line of product needed to be implemented after the depletion of product already in-store, causing the overall inventory to be reorganized. The project manager would have to devise a plan to quickly sale old product to make room for what was coming in. Not to say this doesn’t happen in the urban world, but with an urban project, the process would likely be automated, and project managers would spend less time dealing with change, and more time bringing a natural flow of ROI. They would already have inventory lined up to arrive at the right time.
Whether a project is urban or suburban, it is important that the project manager be equipped with the right tools and methodologies. Urban projects have their pros and cons just as much as suburban projects do. Urban projects have more at-hand resources than suburban, but suburban projects are less prone to worry when the power grid goes out.
Rural and ultra-rural projects also have their pros and cons, which will be covered in my next article. Stay tuned.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Combining his personal experiences, social observations, and a variety of philosophies, Robert Steele provides explanations to the best practices of modern business management. He is an avid contributor to the ongoing discussion regarding the modern implications of project management software.