The Project Manager

Project managers are the leaders of the projects. They are responsible for completing the project on time, within budget, and according to specification. They have the authority to get the job done. The project manager represents the project to the organization and to external groups. In many cases, the project manager has responsibility for more than one project simultaneously.

When to Select the Project Manager

The timing in selecting a project manager varies. Ideally, you want the project manager in the chair at the very beginning of the project. In some cases, the project manager might not be identified until the project has been approved for implementation. For example, in contemporary organizations, senior management assigns project managers to projects after the project proposal has been approved. In those instances, the project manager will not have participated in the scoping and definition phases. This leads to a number of significant problems, one of which is short schedules. Short schedules arise in projects that are defined generally between the account representative and the customer (whether internal or external). These agreements usually constrain all sides of the triangle, as well as the scope. All too often, the project manager is put in a no-win situation. One rule that we all learned a long time ago is this: "The sooner the project manager and team are involved in planning the project, the more committed they will be to its implementation." (This is also true for other members in the organization whose expertise and resources are required to implement the project.)

Another problem with assigning the project manager after the project has been approved for implementation is buy-in by the project manager. Even when placed in situations that are not to his or her liking, the project manager must outwardly display enthusiasm and support for the project.

Selection Criteria

Harold Kerzner,2 a pioneer in project management and one of the leading authorities in the field, states that because the roles and responsibilities of the project manager are so important, his or her selection should be general management's responsibility. If you are working in a large organization, a group or committee is usually assigned to help screen project manager candidates.

A project manager must be experienced, capable, and competent in getting the project done on time, within budget, and according to specifications. Easier said than done. The potential project manager should have the following general skills:

Background and experience. Background and experience in good project management practices are difficult to find in many organizations. The problem is that the demand for experienced project managers outstrips the supply. The solution for many organizations is to create a learning laboratory for wannabe project managers, those who are acquiring project management skills and competencies. To help develop a cadre of project managers of varying backgrounds and experiences, a hierarchy of project management assignments is commonly put in place. That hierarchy might start at team member and then progress to activity manager, to project

2Harold Kerzner, Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling (New York, N.Y.: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1984).

manager, and finally to program manager. (These assignments have a one-to-one correspondence to projects ranging from Type D to Type A, as discussed in Chapter 1.) Project managers progress through this hierarchy as a result of training and experience in the skill areas needed to take on projects of increasing scope and complexity

In addition to on-the-job experience training, several alternatives to "build your own" project managers are available. The most common training method is to learn the project management skills through reviewing project documentation, attending and later supporting JPP sessions, observing project status meetings, maintaining project documentation, and playing the role of technographer in JPP sessions. By participating in whatever way is practical, the individual can gain the skills through on-the-job experiences.

Leadership and strategic expertise. The project manager is generally not the line manager of the team members. The project manager's job is to manage the work of the project. That puts him or her in relationships with the team members that are very different from the relationship that would evolve if the team members reported directly to the project manager. The project manager must get the team members' cooperation and support without having direct authority over them. It simply means that the project manager's skills as a leader are more important to his or her role. The project manager's success as a leader is also related to his or her ability to link the project to the strategy of the business. Often that will be at the heart of his or her relationship and any leverage he or she might have with the project team.

Technical expertise. There are two schools of thought regarding the level of technical expertise that a project manager should have. One school suggests that managing one project is like managing any other project. These are the same pundits who would say that if you can manage one department you can manage any department. We'll ignore the comment on managing departments, but we do take issue with the statement that implies that project management is independent of the project being managed. Despite all that has been written and said about project management, the discipline is primitive. There is a lot we do not know about the successful management of projects. If that were not the case, how would you explain the high project failure rates as reported by the Standish Group and discussed in Chapter 2? While we would agree that the project manager does not need an intimate knowledge of and to be skilled in working with the technology involved, he or she does need to have sufficient knowledge to know what questions to ask, how to interpret the answers, and whether he or she is being given the technical information needed to make a management decision.

Interpersonal competence. Sooner or later, the job of the project manager reduces to his or her ability to interact successfully with another individual. In the course of the project, the project manager will interact with the team, other project managers, business managers, functional managers, senior managers, the customer, outside contractors, and suppliers. These interactions will challenge all of the project manager's interpersonal skills as they relate to such areas as negotiations, conflict resolution, and problem resolution.

Managerial ability. Certain managerial skills are a superset of project management skills. By superset we mean that they apply to project management but are more appropriate on a larger scale to the business. These tend to be strategic and tactical in nature and include skills such as strategic planning, budget planning, staff planning, quality management, business process reengineering, and personnel development.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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