Some expanded perspectives


on project management involvement in

the “fuzzy front ends” of projects



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


This article has been prompted by a recent contribution to this journal by Kerzner & Zeitoun 2022, entitled “The reinvention of the project manager”. One of the key issues raised by the authors was that companies are moving towards involving project managers in what they describe as the Fuzzy Front End (FFE), which is concerned with the initial selection and prioritisation of projects – rather than leaving these activities entirely to senior management.

Now, the position is that, for a very long time, there have been substantial, and sometimes rather prominent, examples of various types of involvement by project-related management in FFE and associated processes. However, these do not appear to be as widely recognised as one might reasonably have expected. I have discussed many of these examples in previous articles in this journal. In this article I propose to include an update and consolidation of these – i.e. a reasonably comprehensive summary of examples I know of in relation to past and present involvements by project-related management in FFE and associated processes.

Some of these involvements have been in the form of services provided by certain project-based organisations, whilst others have been undertaken internally within some production-based ones. I will define/describe these two different types of organisations which undertaken projects (as I have done in many past articles in this journal, most recently in Stretton 2022j) as follows.

  • Production-based Organizations (Cooke-Davies 2002), derive most (if not all) of their revenue and/or benefits from producing and selling products and services. They utilize projects to create new, or improve existing, products and services; enter new markets; or otherwise improve or change their organizations (Archibald et al 2012).
  • Project-based Organizations (Cooke-Davies 2002) derive most (if not all) of their revenue and/or other benefits from creating and delivering projects/ programs to external customers (Archibald et al 2012).

In the following I will introduce and discuss the above within the somewhat broader framework of organisational strategic management at large. These discussions cover many illustrative examples which could be used to help accelerate the involvement of project management in FFE and related organisational strategic planning processes.


Project aligned with organisational strategic objectives

Today, there exists a line-of-sight between project teams and senior management to make sure that all projects are aligned to strategic management objectives. Kerzner & Zeitoun 2022

This quotation is a positive update of the many past admonitions in the project management literature to make sure that all projects are aligned to strategic management objectives.

In Stretton 2017k I noted that writers on project management tend to discuss how projects are initiated in two different contexts – the first in the context of organisational strategic business planning (“deliberate”), and the second in basically ad hoc contexts, via an idea, or perceived opportunity, or similar (“emergent”). The latter appears to reflect the context of the above quotation.

However, via an organizational strategy continuum proposed by Mintzberg & Waters 1985, I was able to draw these two different contexts together (see “deliberate and emergent strategic objectives” in Stage 1 of Figure 1 below), in a format which was eventually developed to a full five-stage basic organisational strategic management framework (in Stretton 2018l). An updated version of this framework is now presented and briefly discussed.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this work: Stretton, A. (2023). Some expanded perspectives on project management involvement in the “fuzzy front ends” of projects, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/pmwj126-Feb2023-Stretton-Expanded-perspectives-on-PM-in-fuzzy-front-ends.pdf

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD     

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.  He 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/.


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