From a single discipline product to a multidisciplinary system: Adapting the right style to the right project

Dov Dvir, Aaron J. Shenhar, Shlomo Alkaher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The premise of this paper is that systems engineering, and project management as well, are all but universal and that different projects should employ different management and organizational styles. While this idea is not new and many managers use their own ways for identifying project differences, this paper offers to use a more formal, research-based framework for distinction among projects and adapting management style. Using a recently developed conceptual framework for project classification, this study demonstrates that a proper identification of project characteristics and adaptation of a suitable style is critical for success. To illustrate this concept, we analyzed the evolution and lessons learned from a complex high-tech defense system development project. The project, seen a priori as an extension of previous experience, turned out to be a completely new kind of effort, particularly in terms of complexity and the use of new technology. Management was not ready for this type of task, and it had initially chosen a traditional style that was successfully used by the company in previous projects. It turned out that what worked in the past, does not necessarily apply to all projects. When the project went into serious trouble, it had to be "saved," by significant reconstruction and changing of management style. The result was extensive budget overrun and substantial delay in delivery. Using the classification framework for distinction among projects, we show that an early and careful analysis of project characteristics during the project conceptual and planning phases could have led management to a different style from inception, and might have helped avoiding many of the difficulties encountered later. We conclude by a set of implications and recommendations to management at large, and system house organizations in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-134
Number of pages12
JournalSystems Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2003


  • Multidisciplinary systems engineering
  • Project classification
  • Project uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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