IPMA International Project Management Association
30 July 2018 / 10:16

Runners, Repeaters and Strangers – applied to a portfolio of projects

Runners, Repeaters & Strangers, or the RRS-Principle is an approach being used in Lean Manufacturing Management [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8BPr755lyU] which can also be used in project portfolio management. As a Lean tool, it is typically used for identifying where to concentrate efforts. It could also be used for evaluation of activities such as products, problems, processes or projects, to support decision-making and sequencing of activities.

Runners – are the activities, problems, processes or projects you see all the time or use on a daily basis.  Say for example the routine work you perform in your office or your work place, your runners would be the phone calls you take, e-mails you write or receive, regular meetings you facilitate with your colleagues, completion of your time sheets etc.

Repeaters – are the activities, problems, processes or projects you see regularly, but not all the time.  So, for example, your project status meetings which may happen once a month, the process you follow to deal with an unhappy customer, or the form you use to return an item to a supplier.

Strangers – are the activities, problems, processes or projects you rarely see or see infrequently. This may be the annual appraisal with your boss, the change project or the anniversary event for your company.

John Chapman describes the characteristics of RRS projects in the soon to be released Handbook of Project Portfolio Handbook as follows [https://www.routledge.com/The-Handbook-of-Project-Portfolio-Management/Lock-Wagner/p/book/9781138635012]: “The number of ´runner´ low-complexity projects in an organization is likely to be relatively high, whereas, at the other end of the scale, one can expect to find fewer high complexity ´stranger´ projects. Although there are likely to be similarities between project types (e.g. the components of a ´runner´ project may be the same as those of a ´repeater´) there will be differences in the way that these projects are run.”

An organization needs to decide on the share each of the three types of projects is planned to be performed. This should be aligned to the organization´s overall strategy. Factors to be taken into consideration are, for example which resources (quality and quantity) are necessary and available for all three types of projects, or is the organization rather oriented towards high throughput or flexible change? The ´runner´ and ´repeater´ projects require less planning than ´stranger´ projects. Competence requirements are different for each project type, for example the ´stranger´ projects require competences in complexity and change management. Methodologies may vary significantly between the project types. For example, the ´runner´ projects require rather a process-oriented, simple methodology, whereas the ´stranger´ projects require more tailor-made, flexible work arrangements, rather building on self-organization and team-efforts. The ´repeater´ projects may use a blend of both approaches.

Analysing the current distribution of all three project types may help the management to decide on Governance and Management arrangements. It helps the PMO to provide the right methodologies, tools and competences for all three types. Building on the findings of such an analysis, top managers may balance the distribution of the three projects types in order to fit the strategic direction and to support a sustainable development.

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.