Project Management

Working With the Operating Business: Friend or Foe?

Paul is the principal of Bird Advisory in Perth, Western Australia.

Every project has some interface with an operating business. The nature of it varies with the business and the project. The working relationship between the project and the operating business can be very important to project success.

What Is the operating business?
The “operating business” plays a role on every project. Usually there are people doing day-to-day things before your project comes along, and there will certainly be people there after the project has disbanded. These people include those who lead the enterprise, those who produce or make things of value, and all the typical support functions.

How is the operating business different to projects?
There is a world of difference. A project has a definite beginning and an end, while the operating business is ongoing. A project’s objectives are around cost, schedule and “that it works,” while the operating business is concerned with annual planning cycles and has an ongoing, unrelenting focus on squeezing incremental improvements in costs and margins.

While many of the skills may be common, the mindsets required to do operations versus to do projects are very different.

What’s the view from the operating business?
When a project comes along, it can be like a shiny new thing—a source of curiosity and perhaps attraction. Many people, not knowing what they don’t …


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