Personnel Departments View of Project Management

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After the seminar on project management, a discussion was held between Sue Lyons, director of personnel, and Jason Finney, assistant director of personnel. The discussion was about changing the organization structure from informal project management to formal project management.

Sue Lyons: Changing over would not be an easy road. There are several matters to be taken under consideration.

Jason Finney: I think we should stop going to outside sources for competent people to manage new projects that are established within Business Development. There are several competent people at Hyten who have MBA's in Systems/Project Management. With that background and their familiarity with company operations, it would be to the company's advantage if we selected personnel from within our organization.

Lyons: Problems will develop whether we choose someone form inside the company or from an outside source.

Finney: However, if the company continues to hire outsiders into Business Development to head new projects, competent people at Hyten are going to start filtering to places of new employment.

Lyons: You are right about the filtration. Whoever is chosen to be a project manager must have qualifications that will get the job done. He or she should not only know the technical aspect behind the project, but should also be able to work with people and understand their needs. Project managers have to show concern for team members and provide them with work challenge. Project managers must work in a dynamic environment. This often requires the implementation of change. Project managers must be able to live with change and provide necessary leadership to implement the change. It is the project manager's responsibility to develop an atmosphere to allow people to adapt to the changing work environment.

In our department alone, the changes to be made will be very crucial to the happiness of the employees and the success of projects. They must feel they are being given a square deal, especially in the evaluation procedure. Who will do the evaluation? Will the functional manager be solely responsible for the evaluation when, in fact, he or she might never see the functional employee for the duration of a project? A functional manager cannot possibly keep tabs on all the functional employees who are working on different projects.

Finney: Then the functional manager will have to ask the project managers for evaluation information.

Lyons: I can see how that could result in many unwanted situations. To begin with, say the project manager and the functional manager don't see eye to eye on things. Granted, both should be at the same grade level and neither one has authority over the other, but let's say there is a situation where the two of them disagree as to either direction or quality of work. That puts the functional employee in an awkward position. Any employee will have the tendency of bending toward the individual who signs his or her promotion and evaluation form. This can influence the project manager into recommending an evaluation below par regardless of how the functional employee performs. There is also the situation where the employee is on the project for only a couple of weeks, and spends most of his or her time working alone, never getting a chance to know the project manager. The project manager will probably give the functional employee an average rating, even though the employee has done an excellent job. This results from very little contact. Then what do you do when the project manager allows personal feelings to influence his or her evaluation of a functional employee? A project manager who knows the functional employee personally might be tempted to give a strong or weak recommendation, regardless of performance.

Finney: You seem to be aware of many difficulties that project management might bring.

Lyons: Not really, but I've been doing a lot of homework since I attended that seminar on project management. It was a good seminar, and since there is not much written on the topic, I've been making a few phone calls to other colleagues for their opinions on project management.

Finney: What have you learned from these phone calls?

Lyons: That there are more personnel problems involved. What do you do in this situation? The project manager makes an excellent recommendation to the functional manager. The functional employee is aware of the appraisal and feels he or she should be given an above average pay increase to match the excellent job appraisal, but the functional manager fails to do so. One personnel manager from another company incorporating project management ran into problems when the project manager gave an employee of one grade level responsibilities of a higher grade level. The employee did an outstanding job taking on the responsibilities of a higher grade level and expected a large salary increase or a promotion.

Lyons: Yes, it seems fair enough, but that's not what happened. The functional manager gave an average evaluation and argued that the project manager had no business giving the functional employee added responsibility without first checking with him. So, then what you have is a disgruntled employee ready to seek employment elsewhere. Also, there are some functional managers who will only give above-average pay increases to those employees who stay in the functional department and make that manager look good.

Lyons: Right now I can see several changes that would need to take place. The first major change would have to be attitudes toward formal project management and hiring procedures. We do have project management here at Hyten but on an informal basis. If we could administer it formally, I feel we could do the company a great service. If we seek project managers from within, we could save on time and money. I could devote more time and effort on wage and salary grades and job descriptions. We would need to revise our evaluation forms—presently they are not adequate. Maybe we should develop more than one evaluation form: one for the project manager to fill out and give to the functional manager, and a second form to be completed by the functional manager for submission to Personnel.

Finney: That might cause new problems. Should the project manager fill out his or her evaluation during or after project completion?

Lyons: It would have go be after project completion. That way an employee who felt unfairly evaluated would not feel tempted to screw up the project. If an employee felt the work wasn't justly evaluated, that employee might decide not to show up for a few days—these few days of absence could be most crucial for timely project completion.

Finney: How will you handle evaluation of employees who work on several projects at the same time? This could be a problem if employees are really enthusiastic about one project over another. They could do a terrific job on the project they are interested in and slack off on other projects. You could also have functional people working on departmental jobs but charging their time to the project overhead. Don't we have exempt and nonexempt people charging to projects?

Lyons: See what I mean? We can't just jump into project management and expect a bed of roses. There will have to be changes. We can't put the cart before the horse.

Finney: I realize that, Sue, but we do have several MBA people working here at Hyten who have been exposed to project management. I think that if we start putting our heads together and take a systematic approach to this matter, we will be able to pull this project together nicely.

Lyons: Well, Jason, I'm glad to see that you are for formal project management. We will have to approach top management on the topic. I would like you to help coordinate an equitable way of evaluating our people and to help develop the appropriate evaluation forms.

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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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