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Classical Project Management: Flaws and Solutions Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jul 21st, 2020


This essay presents the reasons following which researchers are inclined to criticize the classical view of project management. This essay also demonstrates that the main reason to state that classical project management is insufficient to the praxis is that it utilizes limited resources, tools, and methods. As a result, it is almost impossible to address the variety of tasks observed in the modern business world and the area of management.

Thus, it is argued in the essay that the limitedness is in managers’ attempts to address different projects using only a few tools. The problem is also in the lack of advances necessary for this area. Finally, this limitedness is in the impossibility of traditional methods to guarantee that expected results will be achieved. The essay also proposes potential improvements, such as changes in perspectives, diversification of models and tools, application of technologies, and the focus on flexibility of methodology.

Why the Classical View of Project Management Is Criticized for Being Insufficient for Praxis?

The importance of projects in organizations increases proportionally to the interest in not only classical approaches to project management but also in alternative strategies. Classical project management is viewed as a set of steps and models that allow developing projects as linear tasks that are carefully organized according to the methodology proposed in the 1950s-1960s (Lenfle & Loch 2010).

This essay examines why the views of practitioners and researchers have changed regarding the sufficiency of classical project management for praxis. Although the classical view of project management is discussed as the basis for the modern project management practice that provides all the necessary instruments to achieve the set goals, as it is claimed by Soderlund (2011), Saynisch (2010) and Svejvig and Andersen (2015) are inclined to note that the traditional project management is rather insufficient to be used in modern business environments because of its weaknesses, and alternative approaches are required.

This essay will demonstrate that the reason to criticize the classical project management because of its inappropriateness for the praxis is in the fact that traditional project management strategies and tools are limited to address the variety of modern managerial tasks. Firstly, it is important to argue that limitedness is in attempts to address all projects using only a few tools; secondly, it is necessary to state that limitedness as a result of the lack of advancements in the area; thirdly, it is important to note that traditional methods do not always lead to expected results despite opponents’ ideas; finally, it is significant to propose potential improvements to address the identified issues.

One of the main reasons to provoke the debates regarding the appropriateness of the classical project management to be used nowadays is the limitedness of the proposed tools. Thus, only a few steps that can be administered with the help of several universal management tools compose the traditional linear project management model. According to Lenfle and Loch (2010), the first principles of the project management were formulated along with the development of the Manhattan Project, and they were supported by the points of the decision theory. The principles that were proposed in the 1950s-1960s were efficient (Lenfle & Loch 2010), and they were only slightly revised in the 1980s-1990s to develop more project methodologies (Werewka, Szwed & Rogus 2010).

Currently, managers can still use Gantt charts, refer to schedule planners, and apply the ‘universally’ fitting strategies (Morris 2013). However, the researchers agree that the number of tools in the context of provided methodologies is limited because project managers are expected to follow only one developed plan that was based on the certain number of resources and tools according to the theory that one method could fit different cases (Lenfle & Loch 2010; Werewka, Szwed & Rogus 2010). It is possible to state that despite the increased popularity of projects, managers have to use traditional, evidence-based, and research-based tools that cannot be equally effective in all contexts. Therefore, the lack of project management tools to address the variety of issues is viewed as a weakness of the classical approach.

The next reason to criticize the classical approach to project management is the lack of advancements or improvements in this area. Following Lechler, Edington, and Gao (2012), the lack of advancements means that during decades, the project management methodologies developed, but they were not improved in terms of specific tools and strategies that can be effective and flexible to be used today.

Moreover, Morris, Pinto, and Soderlund (2011) note that all possible improvements were only the rethinking of the previous ideas in the sphere, and it is impossible to speak about the actual development of the project management since the classical view is still followed in the practice. Modern managers continue using the traditional linear models, organizational charts, project schemes, decision-making criteria, as well as monitoring and problem-solving resources that are outdated and non-relevant (Morris, Pinto & Soderlund 2011). Thus, it is possible to state that advancements as indicators of the progress are needed in each methodology, and in the case of the classical project management, the absence of effective advancements makes it different and less effective while comparing it to alternative approaches to the project management.

The inability of the classical approach to guarantee the achievement of project management goals and lead to expected results is also the point for the critique by both practitioners and researchers. The problem is in the fact that despite utilizing the standard and evidence-based tools and methods, managers cannot achieve the set goals, and the applied methodology seems to be ineffective (Andersen 2016). While referring to the classical project management, it is possible to note that such failures allow speaking about problems with defining the goals of projects, conducting steps, and monitoring the project (Browning 2010; Morris, Pinto & Soderlund 2011).

Andersen (2016) notes that the manager can formulate the goal with associated outcomes of the project and choose traditional tools that are effective and popular. Still, the perfect formulation of goals cannot guarantee the achievement of results because tools are important at each stage of the project development. In this context, there are situations when traditional paradigms and tools cannot contribute to the successful completion of the project.

However, despite the spread of critical views regarding the classical project management and its inappropriateness to be used in practice, some researchers note that the effectiveness of traditional methods used in project management is proved with references to many completed business projects, including the changes in technologies, acquisitions, or constructions of new facilities among others. Soderlund (2011) notes that the classical approach provides the fundament for the effective development of the project, and the manager receives the opportunity to use the tools that will potentially lead to the predicted results.

Nevertheless, the business world and management systems development, and more criteria are proposed for the project management to determine its success and relevance to the praxis. As a result, some projects are more innovative and creative in their nature, and the use of more advanced approaches is expected. According to Morris (2013), modern projects differ significantly from the projects that were developed a decade ago because of their complexity. From this point, the classical project management cannot be discussed as an approach that is appropriate to address all managers’ plans. Therefore, certain improvements to the currently used project management methodology are necessary to make it more relevant to modern managerial practice.

The potential improvements that can be used to enhance the practice of project managers are actively discussed in the literature as alternative visions, theories, and methodologies. These improvements include viewing the project as not a plan of actions to complete a certain goal but as “a temporary organization” (Svejvig & Andersen 2015, p. 279); diversifying the models and tools that can be used to plan the project realization and completion (Lenfle & Loch 2010); applying more project technologies and innovations that can be effectively used in practice (Werewka, Szwed & Rogus 2010); making the project management methodology more flexible to be adaptable to different modern tasks and contexts (Saynisch 2010). It is important to note that these improvements address the main weaknesses that are identified by researchers and practitioners as associated with traditional project management.

This essay has presented the reasons to criticize the aspects of the classical project management in the context of modern management practice, as well as potential improvements to address the discussed issues. It has been argued that the problem of the classical project management is in the limitedness of the proposed tools and models, in the lack of advancements that follow the modern tendencies in the managerial practice and business world, and in the impossibility of traditional tools to guarantee the positive expected results in the changing contexts. Thus, it was argued that the classical view of project management is rather limited and requiring improvements to respond to currently observed changes in the business world and approaches to completing the tasks that require the project development.

From this perspective, the classical project tools are not varied. The sphere of project management develops, but actual advancements are often not applied to practice. Moreover, it is not guaranteed that the use of traditional evidence-based tools will lead to planned results as the utilized tools can be weak. However, the presented argument is opposed to the developed vision that classical project management is more advantageous because its strategies were developed during the decades, and their effectiveness is proved. In this context, the effectiveness of utilizing the project management in practice can depend not on the type of applied theories and methods but on the abilities of managers to use the proposed tools effectively, and the additional research can be necessary for this field.

Still, it appears that modern project management requires the revision of approaches, and the critique of the classical strategy can be reasonable in the context of changing business environments.

Reference List

Andersen, E 2016, ‘Do project managers have different perspectives on project management?’, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 58-65. Web.

Browning, T 2010, ‘On the alignment of the purposes and views of process models in project management’, Journal of Operations Management, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 316-332. Web.

Lechler, T Edington, B & Gao, T 2012, ‘Challenging classic project management: turning project uncertainties into business opportunities’, Project Management Journal, vol. 43, no. 6, pp. 59-69. Web.

Lenfle, S & Loch, C 2010, ‘Lost roots: how project management came to emphasize control over flexibility and novelty’, California Management Review, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 32-55. Web.

Morris, P 2013, Reconstructing project management, John Wiley & Sons, New York. Web.

Morris, P, Pinto, J & Soderlund, J 2011, The Oxford handbook of project management, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Web.

Saynisch, M 2010, ‘Beyond frontiers of traditional project management: an approach to evolutionary, self‐organizational principles and the complexity theory – results of the research program’, Project Management Journal, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 21-37. Web.

Soderlund, J 2011, ‘Pluralism in project management: navigating the crossroads of specialization and fragmentation’, International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 153-176. Web.

Svejvig, P & Andersen, P 2015, ‘Rethinking project management: a structured literature review with a critical look at the brave new world’, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 278-290. Web.

Werewka, J, Szwed, P & Rogus, G 2010, ‘Integration of classical and agile project management methodologies based on ontological model’, Production Engineering in Making, vol. 1, no. 12, pp. 7-28. Web.

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