Understanding the Project Environment

Posted by Brad Egeland

Environment400 300x187 Understanding the Project EnvironmentKnowing what you’re getting into can sometimes be half the battle.  What is the climate in the customer organization?  Who is cooperative and who isn’t.  What’s happening in your organization that may affect this project or may inhibit your ability to be successful on it.  Perception is key – a project manager and his team must always be aware because there are so many factors – aside from the ones that you will encounter daily on your project – that can have positive and negative affects on your project.  You can’t control all of them – or even most of them – and you certainly can’t prepare for everything, but you can work hard at being aware and keeping your team aware.

Virtually all projects are planned and implemented in a social, economic, and environmental context, and have intended and unintended positive and/or negative impacts. The project team – starting at the top with the project manager – should always consider the project in its cultural, social, international, political, and physical environmental contexts.  Perception of the project from these standpoint will help the team prepare for issues, plan for risks, and better understand that factors at work around, and possible even against, your project.

Cultural and social environment. The team needs to understand how the project affects people and how people affect the project. This may require an understanding of aspects of the economic, demographic, educational, ethical, ethnic, religious, and other characteristics of the people whom the project affects or who may have an interest in the project. The project manager should also examine the organizational culture and determine whether project management is recognized as a valid role with accountability and authority for managing the project.

International and political environment. Some team members may need to be familiar with applicable international, national, regional, and local laws and customs, as well as the political climate that could affect the project. Other international factors to consider are time-zone differences, national and regional holidays, travel requirements for face-to-face meetings, and the logistics of teleconferencing. This certainly comes into a bigger view for remote project managers working with virtual teams stretched across a country or around the world.  This wasn’t nearly the common occurrence 20 years ago that it is today with our ability to use technology to collaborate with our team at a moments notice from just about any location.

Physical environment. If the project will affect its physical surroundings, some team members should be knowledgeable about the local ecology and physical geography that could affect the project or be affected by the project. As we consider green initiatives and environmental sustainability on our projects – concepts that often play big roles in projects at this time – the physical environment of the project can be a big factor.

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