Visionary Project

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Project Visions and Visioning
File:Vision.jpg This article is developed within the scope of the Project Visions and Visioning, an effort to enhance Foresight learning through collaborative work.

Visionary Project is the third lecture from a module on Visions and Visioning, first taught to graduate students from the Communication Faculty of the National School for Political and Administration Studies (Romania).


No Vision, No Projects


project management - a troubled discipline

  • optimization school - how to plan a project?
  • factor school - what determines a project’s success?
  • contingency school - why do projects differ?
  • behavior school - how do projects behave?
  • governance school - how are projects governed?
  • relationship school - how are projects generated?
  • decision school - why do projects continue to live?


  • a simple and clear-cut definition of project and project management would be a difficult feat
  • projects are defined as complex sets of activities, complex tasks, organizational structures, organization processes, transactions, networks, large-scale investments
  • some overlap and shared ideas are discerned regarding project definition, such as temporarity, complexity, and interdisciplinary

Temporary Social Systems

temporary organisation

  • the time dimension is reflected by various concepts that are being used: temporary work, temporary systems, projectification and temporary organisations
  • groups of people collaborating to accomplish a joint task with the duration of the collaboration explicitly fixed, either by a specific date or by the attainment of a predefined task or condition

some features of TOs

  • a set of diversely skilled people working together on a complex task over a limited period of time
  • limited in duration and membership, and in which people come together, interact, create something, and then disband
  • structures of limited duration that operate within and between permanent organisations.
  • bringing together a group of people who are unfamiliar with one another’s skills, but must work interdependently on complex tasks
  • separate legal and financial entities set up for a specific task and dissolved upon its completion

communalities & variables

  • four common elements:
    • limited duration
    • one or more tasks to achieve, which are the reason for which the TO is set up
    • one or more teams interacting and working on the task(s)
    • the production of change through action and the completion of tasks(s)
  • variables:
    • the complexity of the tasks
    • the level of uncertainty as to whether the objective will be met
    • the interdependence of team members
    • limited resources (time, instruments, budget)
    • the degree of red tape within the TO
    • leadership style
    • methods and styles of communication
    • levels of complexity of intra- or inter-organisational TOs level of isolation and/or interdependence of the TO with respect to the organisational contexts

interorganisational TOs

  • composed of independent and sovereign organizations collaborating mainly to contribute to a common task characteristic elements:
    • partnerships
    • team structure
    • goals
    • roles
    • responsibilities
    • products
    • paperwork
    • assessment criteria

trans-national European projects

  • pre-project - the preparation and planning of the project proposal and the establishment of the consortium
  • implementation, monitoring and on-going evaluation of the project work-plan
  • reporting – sets out and clarifies achieved, on-going and final results and deliverables and their consistency with planned aims, objectives, defined resources and timing.
  • exploitation and mainstreaming - criteria in assessing the projects’ effectiveness and results

ITOs organizational dimension

  • micro: core partners - information, decision-making, co-ordination flows, work flows are most stable over time
  • meso: partner’s consortium - competences and roles are defined during the bid preparation stage
  • macro: stakeholder network - fragile with respect to external stresses

Shrinking Time

life in the dromosphere

  • in this new world of accelerated reality, traditional planning becomes in many ways a contradictory effort
  • planning requires a model that structures the world and allows change to be studied in a context that is assumed to remain stable
  • planning works best when the dimensions of the problem remain the same

strategic information systems

  • IS developed with the intention of furthering or enabling a specific strategy
  • most important SIS applications are those which enable an organization to form its future relationship with its environment
  • the challenge is to break the rules of the past and structure IS to meet a variety of changing information requirements, some of which cannot even be known before the systems are built
vision failures
  • the problem is that, by modeling processes and structures as they are at present, SIS developments are failing to take into account future requirements
  • detrimental effects:
    • the organisation's SIS development effort will be diverted or wasted
    • the SIS will not support the organisation's long-term strategy
    • the organisation's strategic flexibility may be compromised
step 1: conception
  • creative, generative mental process, probably with a high degree of originality and with relatively little formality or routine
  • potential techniques may support the process:
    • creativity methods – ”blue-sky thinking”, ”brainstorming”, ”world caffe”
    • abstractization – SWOT, TOWS, STEEP, PESTE analysis
step 2: interpretation
  • abstract and intuitive qualities of vision are at odds with the precision which is necessary for analysing, specifying and designing information systems
  • support:
    • focussing techiques – SODA (Strategic Options Development & Analysis), SCA (Strategic Choice Approach)
    • giving meaning - semantic analysis techniques
step 3: intention
  • interpretation of the abstract vision onto achievable objectives, define targets and levels of performance
  • techniques for:
    • objective-setting – Strategic Options Generator, ICA model
    • target-setting – CSF (critical success factor analysis)
step 4: synthesis
  • contributions of the various participants and the various strategic options which have been identified at the previous stage are synthesized into ”a single ambition”
  • practices
    • participation – soft systems methodology
    • consensus-building – Delphi technique
step 5: integration
  • communicating the agreed values, norms, behviours and having them accepted as the ”cultural norm”
  • components:
    • communication techniques
    • inspiration - inspiring the participants to accept and follow the vision; team-building techniques
step 6: implementation
  • the information system would be designed as it should be, not as it is presently
  • architectures and models are based largely on normal analysis and design techniques such as entity-relationship models, data flow diagrams and a variety of referential matrixes
  • the approach may be forward-looking, but the techniques for developing requirements don’t support it

what about the nature of projects?

  • the structural relation between project and vision crumbles, as the vision implodes into a project that is both determined by the vision and its container
  • the project is re-shaped into an evolutionary endeavor, in which even the word “project” is recursively re-imprinted
  • the reason for “project” proves to be internal, rather than external, while dissatisfaction is revealed to result from alienation, rather than stress factors


probing the future

  • a concept car is a car prototype made to showcase a new vehicle’s styling, technology, and overall design before production
  • they are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not have a chance of being produced
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