Obedient servant or independent innovator?

I originally wrote this article for Jisc infoNet’s blog.

Have you ever stopped to consider your project strategy? Research carried out by Artto et al (2007) describes four types of project strategy:

  1. Obedient servant
  2. Independent innovator
  3. Strong leader
  4. Flexible mediator

They relate strongly to the degree of independence a project has and the number of project’s strong stakeholders, as shown in the matrix below. Words in green indicate how the success of projects adopting that strategy might be measured.

Project Strategies, adapted from Artto et al (2007)

Understanding where your project fits in this grid might help you to determine and clarify:

  • your role (or not) in the project
  • the project’s objectives and goals
  • the project’s governance structure
  • how success will be measured

Artto et al (2007, p.8) define project strategy as the “direction in a project that contributes tosuccess of the project in its environment.” Direction, in this instance, refers to elements that might directly or indirectly affect the course of a project, for example: goals, plans, governance systems and other controlling devices. These elements typically adapt and change throughout the course of a project which is a strong indication of the dynamic nature of projects.

Worth thinking about the next time you undertake a project, or commission one! Jisc projects tend to fall in one of three categories: independent innovator; flexible mediator; and strong leader. Many of the projects I’ve worked with have had difficulties with change management and you can understand why. They’re either trailblazing or having to carefully mediate a range of opinions and expectations.

The first thing to remember is that resistance is normal, although you would never know it if you just looked at the success stories. (MILLER, 2009, P.11)

Resistance is normal. Prepare yourself for it no matter which strategy best describes your project. Jisc infoNet offers a range of infoKits (eg strategychange managementp3m) and tools (eg assumption surfacing and testingSMART targetsprioritisation matrix7S model) to help you!


Artto, K., Kujala, J., Dietrich, P. and Martinsuo, M. (2007) ‘What is project strategy’, International Journal of Project Management, 1 (26), p.9 ScienceDirect [Online]. Available at:http://www.sciencedirect.com (Accessed: 6 February 2013).

Miller, A. (2009) How to get your ideas adopted (and change the world). London: Marshall Cavendish Limited.