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Development Cooperation Handbook/The development aid organization/The projectized organization

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The projectized organization

Here we use the term "projectized organization" for an organization that organizes its activity in programs that are implemented through projects and that intends to empower project team to act with autonomous discretion in project management. This does not mean that project managers would act really independently because projects make sense within the programme cycle management and within a constant process of monitoring and evaluation and organizational development. But it means that the organization aims as much as possible to delegate power to the people who have accepted to take responsibility for the outcomes of their tasks. And it licentiates and acknowledges a managerial leadership dedicated to empower and train subordinate teams. As such it is different from the hierarchical military- like bureaucratic organizations where leaders command followers expected to execute plans without autonomous discernment.


As organizations are increasingly asked to operate in an effective environment, they tend to focus on “outcome centred” management approaches. This implies the capacity to move from centralized bureaucratic structures (typical of purely functional managerial style) to interrelated but self-governing programme/projects teams. A consequence of this shift of managerial focus is that managers need to foster an organizational  process so that the employees learn from the programme/project results and can contribute to share the information required to better plan future actions. In this manual we have described how the organization can learn to be "projectized" i.e. to develop, executing and evaluate the results and the impact of development programmes in such a way as to increase knowledge and capacity in internal and external programme stakeholders.

In a projectized organization, program management provides a layer above project management, establishing a framework where projects can be run successfully, but leaves the responsibility of project management to autonomous project management teams. (See also: the 3 level hierarchy of project/programme objectives).

In our way of using the term "projectized organization" differs from the way it is conceived in the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) by the Project Management Institute where organizations are classified as: functional - A hierarchical organization where each employee has one clear superior, staff are grouped by areas of specialization, and managed by a person with expertise in that area.   projectized - an organizational structure in which the project manager has full authority to assign priorities, apply resources, and direct the work of persons assigned to the project. matrix: Any organizational structure in which the project manager shares responsibility with the functional managers for assigning priorities and for directing the work of persons assigned to the project.

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But apart from such an academic classification, in reality all organizations tend to be somehow "matrix" because where activities are outcome oriented they cannot function if managed within an extremist "functional" or "projectized" approach. You always need a balance between the need to coordinate the various project within an unitary philosophy and purpose which is typical of the organization mission and to delegate power to autonomously responsible teams. The real difference so it is not with regard of how the organization is structured (it is always a matrix, stronger or looser); the real difference is a difference of vision regarding how the organization expects itself to develop and learn. Does it aim to move towards a centralized control of the project managers that are "used" merely as human resources implementing the will and the vision of somebody else? Or towards a process of empowering the project managers and their teams through a process of participated design, implementation and evaluation of programmes and clearly defined responsibilities derived from these participated effort?

Guideline: How to manage programmes for a learning organization that is projectized and employee empowering.

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