Project Business is not for the Faint of Heart


Project Business Management


By Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany

“Don’t be afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a man is, the more
likely he is to carry his point, even though he is a stranger.” – Homer


Often, Project Business suffers from insufficient clarification of rules that are applicable to the parties involved. It takes courage to address issues early before they grow larger, becoming problems or even crises. In order to create this understanding, instances that are involved with project management should also address matters of Project Business.

A Copyright Conflict in Project Business

The Situation

A customer from Switzerland in a project under contract, let’s call the company Teabag AG[1], had a German company Black Coffee GmbH assigned to work on a project as a contractor. The contract’s content was the development of extensive courseware, including text, graphics, photos, videos, other digital content, a multiple-choice exam, and a lot more. To keep things simple, the work was done based on a short written agreement and mostly on verbal arrangements. Both parties agreed not to invest time, energy, and money in developing a detailed contract. Instead, Teabag AG wanted to see quick results, and Black Coffee GmbH wanted to send invoices without much delay. So, the project agreement was more based on mutual trust than on a written and signed contract document.

Black Coffee GmbH, in turn, used several subcontractors: A service provider, a vendor of off-the-shelf components, and three freelancers coming from various European countries. The freelancers, in essence, were one-person subcontractors.

Figure 1 shows the 2-tier project supply network that emerged. As simple as the network was, it already had seven parties involved and six interfaces between them based on verbal and short written agreements.

Soon disputes turned up. Differences in laws relating to intellectual property in the different countries caused some heated discussions. The work results of the project were, to a significant part, products of intellectual and creative work, and the handling of copyright questions was to some degree different across the national jurisdictions.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Oliver Lehmann, author of the book “Project Business Management” (ISBN 9781138197503), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2018. See author profile below.

How to cite this article: Lehmann, O. F. (2023). Project Business is not for the Faint of Heart, Project Business series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pmwj125-Jan2023-Lehmann-project-business-is-not-for-faint-of-heart.pdf

About the Author

Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany


Oliver F. Lehmann, MSc, ACE, PMP, is a project management educator, author, consultant, and speaker. In addition, he is the owner of the website Project Business Foundation, a non-profit initiative for professionals and organizations involved in cross-corporate project business.

He studied Linguistics, Literature, and History at the University of Stuttgart and Project Management at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he holds a Master of Science Degree (with Merit). Oliver has trained thousands of project managers in Europe, the USA, and Asia in methodological project management, focusing on certification preparation. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Munich.

He has been a member and volunteer at PMI, the Project Management Institute, since 1998 and served as the President of the PMI Southern Germany Chapter from 2013 to 2018. Between 2004 and 2006, he contributed to PMI’s PM Network magazine, for which he provided a monthly editorial on page 1 called “Launch,” analyzing troubled projects around the world.

Oliver believes in three driving forces for personal improvement in project management: formal learning, experience, and observations. He resides in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, and can be contacted at oliver@oliverlehmann.com.

Oliver Lehmann is the author of the books:

His previous articles and papers for PM World Journal can be found here:

[1] All names are anonymized.