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PUS in english

The PUS-project

PUS

The PUS-project is a research project conducted in Norway during the period 2006 – 2010. The name PUS is a short form of “Practical uncertainty management in a project owner’s perspective”. The project was collaborated with Norwegian Center of Project Management (NSP) and the Research Council of Norway.

Traditional way of managing uncertainty falls within the iron triangle of cost, time and quality that are associated with the project, and focuses mainly on threats rather than opportunities. This traditional approach has its limitations, especially when it comes to creating or ensuring a wider effect that is to be produced by the project when it is completed. A project may be completed according to a predefined frame of cost, time and quality. But, the very purpose of the project (the intended effect of the project) may not be achieved. Furthermore, the traditional approach tends to assume that the world is stable and predictable. The PUS-project acknowledged that the world in which projects are a part of is dynamic, unpredictable and complex, and proposed a broader perspective: the project owner perspective.

A project owner has rights to and is responsible for the project. Olsson et al. (2007, page 7) say:

“The beauty behind the concept of a project owner lies in the fact that a project owner has incentives for weighing costs against benefits for a project. Project owners are therefore expected to strive for project governance aimed at maximising the value from the project.”

The project owner perspective provides a broader understanding of managing uncertainty in projects. This perspective can be helpful to understand important aspects that influence a project (including aspects that lie outside of the realm of traditional project management) aswell as interrelation between the aspects. This understanding, which can be achieved through cooperation between the project manager and the project owner, can lead to deal effectively with uncertainty in projects.

There had not been much research on how and what the project owner role should be with respect to management of uncertainty. The PUS-project had an ambition to shed light on the owner's role related to managing uncertainty; from the very start of the project to the phase where the intended benefits of the project are realized. The PUS-project had a keen interest in influencing large organizations’ thinking patterns and actions associated with identification and management of uncertainty elements in projects.

 

The PUS model

Uncertainty management – The PUS-model

 

Major industrial partners of the PUS-project were

  1. Statoil (an international energy company with operations in 34 countries, headquartered in Norway)
  2. Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property Management (Statsbygg),
  3. Telenor (one of the world’s largest mobile operators with 33 200 employees worldwide, headquartered in Norway)
  4. Norwegian Armed Forces (Forsvaret)
  5. Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen)
  6. Norwegian National Rail Administration (Jernbaneverket)

Apart from these main industrial partners, other Norwegian organizations were also involved in the PUS-project. The project’s cost frame was around 30 million Norwegian kroner (NOK) (ca 3.8 million EURO). This frame included spin-off projects and own efforts.

 

Major industrial partners of the PUS-project

Major industrial partners of the PUS-project

 

Here are some examples of the activities / results of the PUS-project. The first example is Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property Management (Statsbygg). Statsbygg organizes, plans and executes around 160 projects – large and small – at all times, and 20-30 large projects are completed every year.

Statsbygg, in collaboration with the PUS-project, started its own development project called “Uncertainty management in Statsbygg” – in short, the SUS-project. Statsbygg worked closely with the researchers connected to the PUS-project. Through the cooperation with the PUS-project, Statsbygg developed itself in order to deal with uncertainty effectively and efficiently.

The SUS-project has 3 phases. They are:

Studies in the case projects: The case projects were: Lapp Science Center, Norwegian

  • Central Bank, Domus Media (a part of University of Oslo), R6 (Government buildings), National Theater, Halden prison, Vestfold University College, and Department of Computer Science II (IFI2, University of Oslo). Methods and tools were tested in this phase; for example, a matrix for visualizing situations of uncertainty, risk register for monitoring uncertainty and monthly reporting of uncertainty in the case projects. Other activities associated with this phase include: work related to establishing training courses,development of culture in accordance with the focus of the SUS-project, experience reports from 4 of the case projects.
  • Developing the systems – methods and tools: Based on experiences from the case projects, Statsbygg developed methods and tools. New governing documents were created, and a new role called “uncertainty coordinator” was established.
  • Implementing the systems: As per October 2010, the tools were used by about 20 projects. Procedures, guidelines, templates and training programs were in use. Statsbygg’s school offers courses and training for their employees. The courses are conducted according to Statsbygg’s own direction and guidelines. Uncertainty analyses and uncertainty workshops are conducted, and uncertainty analyses are seen as a basis for uncertainty management. Uncertainty analyses focus mainly on quantitative aspects, while uncertainty workshops focus more on qualitative aspects. Uncertainty workshops are conducted every other month. Five to 8 people participate in such workshops. People linked to other projects can participate in the workshops as observers; this participation can be viewed as a means to transfer knowledge and experience.

Statsbygg acknowledges that it has become more mature in dealing with and managing uncertainty in their projects, and will continue with the SUS-project.

 

Vestfold University

Vestfold University College – one of the case projects (Photos from Statsbygg’s website)

 

In the beginning of 2011, the SUS-project won Statsbygg’s innovation prize. A description that accompanied the prize says that the project has provided documentation of both threats and opportunities over time in projects, including effects and efforts related to them. Theoverview of uncertainty, provided by the documentation, gives both project managers and project owners more confidence in executing their roles in managing uncertainty in projects.

Another example is Telenor. Telenor developed a tool called “Health check” with the collaboration of the PUS-project. The tool has 20 questions that can be used to check how project participants experience their work situations. The questions can be used in different phases of a project – as a kind of an early warning system. Telenor indicated its willingness to continue the work, which had been started with the PUS-project, through its “risk-forum”.

The PUS-project contributed to academia too. In this regard, 17 master degree theses and 11 student project theses were produced at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. Two doctoral theses were also connected to the PUS-project. Eleven journal articles and 22 conference articles were published during the 4 year period.

The PUS-project managed to create a positive culture that can promote effective and efficient uncertainty management in projects. Organizations such as Statsbygg and Telenor acknowledged the development of the positive culture in their organizations through the collaboration with the PUS-project and the need to involve project owner more in managing uncertainty in projects (Forum-report, 2010). Furthermore, the cooperation between the PUS- project and the involved organizations, such as Statsbygg, illustrates how a research project attempted to create value in the industry – an example of collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

Manager of the PUS-project: Senior Researcher Agnar Johansen, e-mail: agnar.johansen@sintef.no.

Reference:

Olsson, Nils O. E.; Johansen, Agnar; Langlo, Jan Alexander and Torp, Olav (2007): Who owns a project?, EURAM (European Academy of Management) Annual Conference 2007, Paris, France.

Forum-report (2010): Report on the final forum that symbolizes the formal completion of the PUS-project. The report (Norwegian version) is available at the website of the PUS-project: http://www.nsp.ntnu.no/PUS/.