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Managing Fuzzy Projects in 3D - a Practical Guide for Project Management

Overhead view of three people seated at a table reviewing a design

Known worldwide as a “project management guru”, Telfer professor Lavagnon Ika has recently published a new book titled Managing Fuzzy Projects in 3D: A Proven, Multi-Faceted Blueprint for Overseeing Complex Projects. Co-authored with Jan Saint-Macary, professor of strategy and time management at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), this book is a useful tool for anyone involved in projects of varied scope and size.

The authors summarized 20 years of research on more than 3,000 projects from around the world to build a helpful roadmap for anyone involved in project delivery. An excellent example of knowledge mobilization, this book translates Professor Ika’s expertise into an accessible, tangible resource that helps the reader relate to project success.

What makes a project "fuzzy"?Cover of the book Managing Fuzzy Projects in 3D

A “fuzzy project” is one where goals and expectations are either elusive, evolving, or ill-defined, which can make it complicated to agree on a definition of success. Goals and expectations that are clearly defined and communicated are important to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page. A project can also become “fuzzy” because of differing – and sometimes conflicting or contested – interests and expectations between stakeholders. That type of politics can make or break projects.

The authors provide a few examples of fuzzy projects in the book. One such example is the Tata Nano, a compact car designed by Tata Motors in India, which was intended to be marketed as an extremely affordable car priced at US $ 2,200. However, the overarching objective of manufacturing the “cheapest” car led to problems, such as low quality and safety concerns, and elicited stakeholders’ protests. Though the project may have been considered successful in that the cost of the vehicle was low, it was not successful in reaching its sales targets. How then did they define and assess the success of that project? Were the views of all stakeholders considered?

Factoring in multiple dimensions

The title of the book also speaks of 3D, which refers to the three dimensions involved in managing projects: rational, political, and psychosocial. According to Professor Ika: “In project management we typically consider the triple constraint of time, cost, and quality to define success. We don’t think much about stakeholder expectations or political repercussions inside or outside the project team.”

The rational dimension includes the traditional and narrow definition of success where something that is delivered on time and on budget is considered successful, regardless of its impact on stakeholders. The political dimension refers to the influence and expectations of powerful stakeholders, such as sponsors, executives, shareholders, and elected officials. As for the psychosocial dimension, it reflects the more human aspects of a project, such as the diverse perspectives and objectives of individual team members.

Lavagnon IkaLavagnon Ika is a Full Professor, founding director of the Observatory on Large-Scale Projects, and M.Sc. Program Director for Health Systems and Management at the Telfer School of Management. His research focuses on the evolution of complex projects that have developed around the globe. He is affiliated with the uOttawa School of International Development and Global Studies, and holds both a MSc and a PhD in project management from the Université du Québec. Professor Ika has received numerous awards, including the Telfer Established Researcher Award.

About the Author

En tant que conseillère en mobilisation des connaissances et communications, Mireille transforme les concepts et les impacts de la recherche de l'École de gestion Telfer de manière à rejoindre un large éventail de publics et rehausser l'image et la réputation de l'école.<br/><br/>As Knowledge Mobilization and Communications Advisor, Mireille translates Telfer researchers interests and impacts in a clear and engaging manner in order to reach a range of audiences and enhance the School’s image and reputation.

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