Temporary Knowledge Organisations (TKOs)

October 26, 2009

The concept of temporary organisations has been recognised in project management literature for many years. The primary tool of project management, the project team, is a temporary organisation.

The concept of TKOs builds on this concept and recognises the team is a network of complex responsive human connections and disconnections focused on creating the new knowledge needed to successfully deliver their project. This human network is non-linear. People’s actions and responses may be more or less proportional to the stimulus; unexpected, emergent actions will arise; and emotions, uniformity and diversity are all played out within the team. Consequently, traditional, linear approaches to project management are no longer likely to be adequate for meeting the needs and emergent outcomes of project teams in contemporary organisations.

The new management paradigm, which the TKO represents, is a shift from technically determined mechanistic activities to socially organised learning, co-constructed knowledge creation and problem solving through sense-making processes within the complex adaptive system of the project team. The individual team members co-create meaning and order, rather than having it imposed.

The role of leadership in a TKO is ‘we-centred’ rather than ‘I-centred’ participative leadership that will:

  • guide, mentor, assist, coach, partner with team members
  • co-create and co-evolve meaning and context
  • keep an eye on the network horizon; what connections are happening between team members and with the external stakeholder community?
  • give feedback based on performance/execution of project tasks to facilitate learning and improvement

Traditional project artefacts such as schedules still have important roles to play as communication and sense-making tools within the TKO. This is a totally different concept to the old paradigm of ‘control tools’.

Can project management adapt to this new environment? To read more on the challenges see some of the papers by Patrick Weaver:


The Stakeholder Cycle

October 8, 2009

One of the implicit elements of the Stakeholder Circle® methodology is the cyclical nature of the overall stakeholder management process. But this is not a simple circle.

The Stakeholder Cycle

The Stakeholder Cycle

The starting point is Step1 – Identification. Whilst this is the critical first step, the methodology suggests that a fresh scan of the environment is undertaken on a regular basis to understand changes in the overall stakeholder community. This process can be usefully timed to support a routine risk review (there is a strong correlations between stakeholders and risk – this will topic for s future post.). Identification includes assessing the stakeholder’s needs, perceptions and expectations on the one hand and what we need from the stakeholder on the other (mutuality).

Step 2 – Prioritization ranks the stakeholders based on a combination of power, proximity and urgency. Power and proximity are associated with the stakeholder’s position and should be relatively stable. Urgency is more subtle and includes how likely the stakeholder is to take action and how significant the stakeholder’s stake in the project is to that person. If the stakeholder feels comfortable with the overall running of the project, these factors are likely to be low. If the stakeholder is unhappy with the overall shape of the project they are likely to be higher. Managing these perceptions by effective communication is the core skill in stakeholder management (steps 3 and 4). Effective communication is likely to reduce the levels of ‘urgency’ and consequently reduce the stakeholder’s level of prioritization.

Consequently, after the initial prioritization, there are two inputs to re-prioritization, the current, changed, attitude of existing stakeholders who have been the subject of targeted communication plus any new stakeholders from identification.

The last of the processes in this phase of the cycle is Step3 – Visualization. The management team is looking for trends and patterns to understand what’s happening both to individual stakeholders and the overall stakeholder community. This information feeds directly into the engagement process.

The Stakeholder Cycle

The Stakeholder Cycle

Step 4 – Engagement involves the planning and implementation of the stakeholder communication process. This should encompass everything from face to face meetings through to routine reports and newsletters. But the ‘doing’ of communication is not sufficient. It is critical that the effectiveness of the communications are monitored in real time and appropriate adjustments made to the messages and communication plan.

Step 5 – Monitor, is focused on this. Providing a continual watching brief delivering short term feedback to the communication process day-by-day, and a more comprehensive analysis to the next major review cycle. The inputs to monitoring should include formal assessments and informal ‘intelligence’ picked up by different team members as they go about their business. The core element in this step is the proactive seeking of information and then putting the information to effective use.

Just like the penny-farthing the stakeholder cycle has a large and small wheel – and both cycles are critical for effective stakeholder management.


Stakeholder Relationship Management: Book Launched

October 3, 2009

My book, Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation has been published at last!!

Stakeholder Relationship Management

Stakeholder Relationship Management

The Introduction and Chapter 7 are available to pre-view, no obligation, and stocks are available from both the publisher, Gower, and from our business in Australia.

To pre-view or buy visit:

Effective organisational stakeholder management requires understanding and support from everyone, from the CEO to the short-term contractor. This requires the concepts and practices of effective stakeholder management to become embedded in the culture of the organisation; this book provides the ‘road map’ to help organisations achieve these objectives.