Single Battlespace Project Management

In writing this I am using an overlapping theory that was taught to me by the Marine Corps. In the Marine Corps Planning Process, we were taught to use the “Single Battle Concept” which states “Operations or events in one part of the battlespace often have profound and consequential effects on other areas and events.” MCWP 5-1. This concept can be applied to Project Management as well. Nothing is done in a vacuum.

As a construction project manager working for a PMO, I have seen and number of projects become affected by seemingly unrelated projects. A delay in one part of the state has a ripple effect in another. While there are many project managers executing their own projects, there are shared resources which lead to constraints. Planning done for one project may involve resources that are currently being used by other projects. During planning there was no overlap as the projects were separated by time and therefore no initial knowledge of any risk. But what about delays? Delays on one project have direct and tangible impacts on others. Sometimes this occurs within my own projects as they overlap. This is especially true for specialized equipment and skilled personnel.

The biggest challenge in this mentality is getting the other PM’s to see the work as a team.

What has helped in these circumstances has been to view all projects as being intertwined; a “single project.” Rather than seeing them as independent, see them as interdependent. By taking this view one can identify and mitigate risk during planning by planning risk responses/developing contingencies before the risk becomes substantial or an adverse event/failure occurs. This doesn’t mean that a PM needs to know all details about every project but should be aware of key pieces of the projects going on around him: critical path equipment, resources, personnel and timelines. Being aware helps with qualitative analysis of risk planning and enabled proper response planning by allowing time to find optimum solutions rather than last minute reactive costlier solutions.

The biggest challenge in this mentality is getting the other PM’s to see the work as a team. This concept can help one individual PM but if all PM’s in an organization can take this approach then it develops a collective mentality where all managers are aware of how their actions impact not only their own projects but those around them. If dependencies are communicated and the team is aware of who is relying on what resource. If events occur the impacts can be communicated to those affected. When this happens the organization as a whole becomes better, more efficient, improves quality and everyone benefits.

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