Project Team

FIGURE 4-6. Project organization.

• Ensuring that all work performed is both authorized and funded by contractual documentation

The major responsibility of the project manager and the project office personnel is the integration of work across the functional lines of the organization. Functional units, such as engineering, R&D, and manufacturing, together with extra-company subcontractors, must work toward the same specifications, designs, and even objectives. The lack of proper integration of these functional units is the most common cause of project failure. The team members must be dedicated to all activities required for project success, not just their own functional responsibilities. The problems resulting from lack of integration can best be solved by full-time membership and participation of project office personnel. Not all team members are part of the project office. Functional representatives, performing at the interface position, also act as integrators but at a closer position to where the work is finally accomplished (i.e., the line organization).

One of the biggest challenges facing project managers is determining the size of the project office. The optimal size is determined by a trade-off between the maximum number of members necessary to assure compliance with requirements and the maximum number for keeping the total administrative costs under control. Membership is determined by factors such as project size, internal support requirements, type of project (i.e., R&D, qualification, production), level of technical competency required, and customer support requirements. Membership size is also influenced by how strategic management views the project to be. There is a tendency to enlarge project offices if the project is considered strategic, especially if follow-on work is possible.

On large projects, and even on some smaller efforts, it is often impossible to achieve project success without permanently assigned personnel. The four major activities of the project office, shown below, indicate the need for using full-time people:

• Integration of activities

• In-house and out-of-house communication

• Scheduling with risk and uncertainty

• Effective control

These four activities require continuous monitoring by trained project personnel. The training of good project office members may take weeks or even months, and can extend beyond the time allocated for a project. Because key personnel are always in demand, project managers should ask themselves and upper-level management one pivotal question when attempting to staff the project office:

Are there any projects downstream that could cause me to lose key members of my team?

If the answer to this question is yes, then it might benefit the project to have the second-or third-choice person selected for the position or even to staff the position on a part-time basis. Another alternative, of course, would be to assign the key members to activities that are not so important and that can be readily performed by replacement personnel. This, however, is impractical because such personnel will not be employed efficiently.

Program managers would like nothing better than to have all of their key personnel assigned full-time for the duration of the program. Unfortunately, this is undesirable, if not impossible, for many projects because11:

• Skills required by the project vary considerably as the project matures through each of its life-cycle phases.

• Building up large permanently assigned project offices for each project inevitably causes duplication of certain skills (often those in short supply), carrying of people who are not needed on a full-time basis or for a long period, and personnel difficulties in reassignment.

• The project manager may be diverted from his primary task and become the project engineer, for example, in addition to his duties of supervision, administration, and dealing with the personnel problems of a large office rather than concentrating on managing all aspects of the project itself.

• Professionally trained people often prefer to work within a group devoted to their professional area, with permanent management having qualifications in the same field, rather than becoming isolated from their specialty peers by being assigned to a project staff.

• Projects are subject to sudden shifts in priority or even to cancellation, and fulltime members of a project office are thus exposed to potentially serious threats to their job security; this often causes a reluctance on the part of some people to accept a project assignment.

All of these factors favor keeping the full-time project office as small as possible and dependent on established functional departments and specialized staffs. The approach places great emphasis on the planning and control procedures used on the project. On the

11. Russell D. Archibald, Managing High-Technology Programs and Projects (New York: Wiley, 1976), p. 82. Copyright © 1976 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

other hand, there are valid reasons for assigning particular people of various specialties to the project office. These specialties usually include:

• Systems analysis and engineering (or equivalent technical discipline) and product quality and configuration control, if the product requires such an effort

• Project planning, scheduling, control, and administrative support

Many times a project office is staffed by promotion of functional specialists. This situation is quite common to engineering firms with a high percentage of technical employees, but is not without problems.

In professional firms, personnel are generally promoted to management on the basis of their professional or technical competence rather than their managerial ability. While this practice may be unavoidable, it does tend to promote men with insufficient knowledge of management techniques and creates a frustrating environment for the professional down the line.12 With regard to the training needed by technicians who aspire to high positions in a world of increasing professionalism in management, more than half of the technically trained executives studied . . . wished that they had had "more training in the business skills traditionally associated with the management function." In fact, 75 percent admitted that there were gaps in their nontechnical education. . . . Essentially, the engineer whose stock in trade has always been "hard skills" will need to recognize the value of such "soft skills" as psychology, sociology, and so forth, and to make serious and sustained efforts to apply them to his current job.13

There is an unfortunate tendency for executives to create an environment where line employees feel that the "grass is greener" in project management and project engineering than in the line organization. How should an executive handle a situation where line specialists continually apply for transfer to project management? One solution is the development of a dual ladder system, as shown in Figure 4-7, with a pay scale called "consultant." This particular company created the consultant position because:

• There were several technical specialists who were worth more money to the company but who refused to accept a management position to get it.

• Technical specialists could not be paid more money than line managers.

Promoting technical specialists to a management slot simply to give them more money can:

• Create a poor line manager

• Turn a specialist into a generalist

• Leave a large technical gap in the line organization

12. William P. Killian, "Project Management—Future Organizational Concept," Marquette Business Review, 1971, pp. 90-107.

13. Richard A. Koplow, "From Engineer to Manager—And Back Again," IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Vol. EM-14, No. 2, June 1967, pp. 88-92. © 1967 IEEE.

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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