The AMA Handbook of Project Management

By Paul C. Dinsmore; Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 36
R&D Project Management:
Adapting to Technological Risk and Uncertainty

? LEE R. LAMBERT, PMP LAMBERT CONSULTING GROUP, INC.

Achieving a sensible, beneficial, and cost-effective application of project management in the research and development environment can be as difficult and challenging as the technical problems the researcher is attempting to solve.

Senior management, with a focus clearly on the business aspects of the task at hand, looks to the project management process for assistance in "controlling" the research and, along with it, the cost and schedule associated with the project deliverables. Unfortunately, especially for these business-driven managers, the use of a project management process does not provide the panacea for the problems that historically rear their heads when dealing in the volatile environment of uncertainty and risk. Any work effort given the distinction of being classified as an R&D project is, by definition, riddled with uncertainty and all of the accompanying risks. This condition is a given. Otherwise, it wouldn't be called an R&D project.

In assessing the applicability of using the project management process and in determining the degree to which the process is implemented, the amount of uncertainty and risk associated with the specific project must be thoroughly understood. Project management can't be applied in the same way to all R&D projects. The greater the level or degree of uncertainty, the more carefully the utilization of project management techniques must be evaluated. Once this applicability assessment is complete, the project management tools and techniques selected must then be conscientiously implemented and

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