Aspects of People Management


in a Projectised Organisation



By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


Much of the project management literature is concerned with projects undertaken in matrix organisations. There is relatively little material on projectised organisations, particularly those providing project management services to external clients, and very little indeed on people management in such organisations. My forty years of practice in project management were primarily in projectised organizations, including over a quarter of a century with the leading Australian project management company of its time, Civil & Civic Pty Limited. Many people management practices in that organisation were substantially different from conventional wisdoms of people management, but the company was universally recognized as the best employer in its business.

This paper is an account of how several aspects of people management worked in that organisation. Some brief notes on projectised organisations are followed by discussions of people management in Civil & Civic, including implementing broader people-related initiatives by projects, rather than having people-related service departments to do this work. A section on people selection and development focuses on finding and building on individual strengths, followed by several aspects of people management on projects, including self-organisation, motivation, teamwork commitment and performance assessment.


The organisation in which I worked for some twenty-six years, Civil & Civic Pty Limited, operated primarily in the building and construction sector, providing project management services to external clients. In spite of the fact that many of our practices in people management in this organisation were substantially different from conventional wisdoms of people management, the company was universally recognized as the best employer in its business, and the leader in its field in most other aspects as well.

This paper is an account of how several aspects of people management worked in that organisation, from the perspective of one who was a senior manager over most of that period.


Advantages of projectised organisations

In projectised organisations such as Civil & Civic, projects are the business, and the organisation is structured so as to best support its projects. Each project manager is, in effect, running a business, and is given appropriate authority and autonomy. Project team members are allocated to projects on a full-time basis wherever possible, but in some cases are involved in more than one project. Certain central services such as payroll and the like are also commonly provided, but projects remain the core of the business. In such organisations, everyone, including the CEO, sees their role as helping the project managers achieve their project objectives.

As Cleland & King 1968 say, the main advantage of this form of organisation is that it provides complete line authority over the project. Indeed, in the construction industry, project managers were originally created to ensure that one person had total responsibility throughout the entire project, from inception to completion – i.e. “undivided responsibility”, with appropriate authority, for the total project. One of the first to do this was Bechtel, which used project managers on their projects from the early 1950s (Bechtel, 1989).

Bechtel first used the term Project Manager in our international work beginning in the 1950s. This use didn’t entail a Project Manager operating in a matrix organization as we know it today, but rather the assignment of a great deal of responsibility to an individual operating in a remote, strange and often hostile environment, usually with self-contained autonomous team.

As a project management practitioner, I worked mainly in fully projectised organisations, where the project manager was given full responsibility, with commensurate authority. From my experience, this is a wholly effective organisational form for undertaking projects, with abundant advantages, and no disadvantages.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally published in the November 2009 edition of PM World Today. Republished with author’s approval.

How to cite this article: Stretton, A. (2009, 2023). Aspects of People Management in a Projectised Organisation, second edition, originally published in the November 2009 edition of PM World Today, republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/pmwj125-Jan2023-Stretton-Aspects-of-people-management-2nd-ed.pdf

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD (hon)   

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  Alan has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published 250+ professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/