Develop a Project Operating System

Dream with a Plan. Develop with Constraints. Set Simple Rules.

Christophe Berg
4 min readOct 30, 2020

The Project Operating System is a set of simple rules to be formulated in a concise way. These simple rules consist of constraints and guiding principles to operate with, to facilitate the decision making process, to simplify the key processes and to guide the project development.

Dream with a Plan. Resources. Constraints

Type of Simple Rules:

  • How-to: project governance, dependencies, partners, crew. How are some key processes executed? (like developing a new service).
  • Scoping: which opportunity to pursue? Which not. What to do? Why? What is your main activity and what is out of your scope of action?
  • Priorities: selection process, ranking. between two opportunities, which one to prioritize?
  • Timing: time to market, window of opportunity, seasonality.
  • Exit: when it’s time to move on. Assessment of risks, complexity, technical issues, dependencies, financial problems.
Simple Rules

Look at essential questions:

  • What are the key Resources?
  • What is the Costs Structure?
  • How looks the Workflow? and how-to streamline key Processes?
  • What is the Cash Flow? Positive? Negative?
  • How-to to get new clients? How-to keep them?
  • Who are the key Partners?
  • What are the Dependencies?

Look at the ways to make your project happen using the resources and dealing with the set constraints while keeping up with your expectations and standards. Define a set of rules to operate smartly and ease your decision making process.

The Art of seizing Opportunities

Creative project development is about seizing fleeting opportunities. Most opportunities are timely so that you have a fixed window to take an edge.

Think Surfing, a good board is necessary but not sufficient, being trained is necessary but not sufficient. Ultimately to surf a wave, you need to be ready in time and at the right spot to catch it.

Like for a surfer, good observation skills and judgement are paramount in seizing opportunities. Show-up prepared at the right spot to deliver in time. Take and edge, get a short term advantage. Strategy has to stay simple, especially when the environment is complicated. It is a way to deal with an unpredictable market and imponderables.

FOCUS on offering a SOLUTION: your project can be a creative, cost-effective or convenient solution to an identified problem. It can be a bridge to fill a gap that you spotted. It can create a new consumer experience or service by taking advantage of technology. You can fix an emerging problem generated by tech or a specific situation. You can offer something existing elsewhere at your place. You can “steal” a solution from one environment and adapt it to a different context.

Desirability — Feasibility — Viability

Whatever your idea… to ENABLE your project : your solution needs to answer a customer demand (meaning people willing to pay for it) and attract them. It has to be DOABLE (meaning technically feasible). It has to be economically VIABLE and SUSTAINABLE (for you and your team).

Project Manifesto + Tactic Plan

Your project manifesto and your tactic plan or operating system are connected, so it can be useful to start them at the same time, in parallel. In a previous article, I presented what is the Project Manifesto.

Further Readings on Strategy as Simple Rules

This approach of defining a Project Operating System was inspired years ago by reading the article “Strategy as Simple Rules” in January 2001 in the HBR. This initial article evolved in a book “Simple Rules — How to Thrive in a Complex World” by the same authors (see on Wikipedia) Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Find here what are the Simple Rules. Read Simple Rules for a Complex World by the same authors at HBR in SEP 2012.



Christophe Berg

Nomadic Trail Runner | Wellness Consultant | MS in Project Management 🎓 | 🗣️🇫🇷🇺🇸🇪🇸