Project Organization

RT-012a Topic Summary
RT 012a


Project organization is a task that has been disputed and approached in many different ways over  the years, but through studies it has been found that common practices and core fundamentals can be found in all successful projects. Developing a project should be viewed as managing a complex decision-making process, rather than merely preparing a series of products.

A Project Organization Task Force was established by CII to research and discuss construction project organizations. From the group's research and findings, several articles were developed that dive further into the topic of project organization. These articles are Organizing for Project Succes (SP12-2), How Owners and Contractors Organize Project Teams (SD-53), and Human Factors of Project Organization (SD-58). This research addresses the methods, guidelines, and considerations necessary for successful project organization, key member roles and selection, and the elusive art of effective teamwork.       

In studying and evaluating what makes some projects successful, the CII Project Organization Task Force concludes that the following key factors contribute to the success of a project. 

  1. Recognition by all participants in the project that although the owner is ultimately buying a facility, the process and the people who are responsible for designing, procuring, and constructing the facility also are part of what the client is buying.
  2. The total project team must reach agreement relative to the level of project uncertainty at the onset and at various milestones throughout the project.
  3. The primary tools during the initial phase of the project are establishing overall project objectives, completing the design basis for the facility, and preparing an execution plan to accomplish the work.
  4. The final and most important factor to success is selecting appropriate management and supervisory personnel at all levels of the project organization.

Every project will be organized differently, but there are some key findings that are common to successful project organizations. With some key drivers, project organizations can set themselves up for success no matter what the details of the project are.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Construction Organization

Developing a project should be viewed as managing a complex decision-making process, rather than merely preparing a series of products. This requires focusing on the commercial contract between parties and the roles of people within work groups. These working groups are teams that work together to accomplish more than they would if they worked separately. The use of teams is central to the construction project approach because a team is where the decision-making process begins.

Reference: (SP12-2)

2 : The Project Team

Research indicates that the “baseball” concept is the traditional approach to teams in the construction industry, but the “football” concept is a better fit for the construction process. Instead of having each party act separately to determine the success of the group, the project should be driven by planning and include diverse relationships throughout the project organization. Key teams include:

  • Investment Management Team
  • Project Management Team
  • Contractor Management Teams
  • Work Managers
  • Work Manager Teams
Reference: (SP12-2)

3 : Managing the Effects of Uncertainty

Development of a project, from concept to reality, is actually a reduction of the uncertainty process. At every stage of the project, the team is striving to clarify exactly what is to be done and how to do it.

The trend toward early involvement of all concerned parties during construction is beneficial; it assembles the people who know best how to do something with the people who determine what they want. This can be seen in the development of partnering relationships and the recent emphasis on constructability. Difficulty can arise, however, when people who are accustomed to functioning where direction is unambiguous and change is perceived as an enemy, meet people who consider change as beneficial while refining the project plan. Conflict is likely if the owner uses a contract based on a highly certain view of the project, while the contractor views the project definition as unstable.

Refer to SP12-2 for an indepth description of project uncertainty and success factors.

Reference: (SP12-2)

4 : Coordination Tools and Mechanisms

Many different forms of organizations can be successful; such organizations share a unique set of coordinating tools and mechanisms that allow the group of individuals to act in a cohesive, focused direction toward satisfying a single purpose. Coordinating tools and mechanisms include:

  • A comprehensive objective-setting process
  • The design basis
  • A project strategy
  • Work planning
  • Information systems

Refer to SP12-2 for an indepth description of these tools and mechanisms.

Reference: (SP12-2)

5 : Team Dynamics

The culture of construction projects has unique qualities that form the backdrop, determine the needs and requirements for people to perform, and deliver high performance projects. Several major cultural factors that significantly influence the form and substance of the human organization on projects have been identified. These can be summarized as factors responding to high degrees of risks, often conflicting priorities, goals and rewards, and always uncertainty. The uncertainty factor is a central issue that separates construction requirements from other organizations. A construction project also includes the complex issues associated with several autonomous organizations, each having its own structure and procedures. Human factors must be designed to operate effectively within these variables. Adaptability, resilience, flexibility, guidelines rather than manuals, matrix structures, teams, openness, and leadership are requirements of success.

Refer to SP12-2 for an indepth description of:

  • Project Culture 
  • Code of Team Conduct 
  • Key Team Member Selection 
  • Team Development 
Reference: (SP12-2)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

SP12-2, Organizing for Project Success

This publication addresses methods, guidelines and considerations necessary for successful project organization, key member roles and selection and effective teamwork.  The key theme to successful project organization is the selection of properly skilled people.
This material suggests key tools and mechanisms that include:
  • A comprehensive objective-setting process
  • The design basis
  • A project strategy
  • Work Planning
  • Information systems
  • Key team member selection
  • Team development
Reference: (SP12-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Agreement index rating

Research Publications

Organizing for Project Success - SP12-2

Publication Date: 02/1991 Type: Special Publication Pages: 44 Status: Tool

Human Factors of Project Organization - SD-58

Publication Date: 09/1990 Type: Source Document Pages: 91 Status: Archived Reference

How Owners and Contractors Organize Project Teams - SD-53

Publication Date: 06/1990 Type: Source Document Pages: 131 Status: Archived Reference