Selecting The Wrong Project Manager

Even though executives know the personal characteristics and traits that project managers should possess, and even though job descriptions are often clearly defined, management may still select the wrong person because they base their decision on the following criteria.

Maturity Some executives consider gray hair to be a sure indication of maturity, but this is not the type of maturity needed for project management. Maturity in project management generally comes from exposure to several types of projects in a variety of project office positions. In aerospace and defense, it is possible for a project manager to manage the same type of project for ten years or more. When placed on a new project, the individual may try to force personnel and project requirements to adhere to the same policies and procedures that existed on the ten-year project. The project manager may know only one way of managing projects.

Hard-Nosed Tactics Applying hard-nosed tactics to subordinates can be very demoralizing.

Project managers must give people sufficient freedom to get the job done, without providing continuous supervision and direction. A line employee who is given "freedom" by his line manager but suddenly finds himself closely supervised by the project manager will be very unhappy.

Line managers, because of their ability to control an employee's salary, need only one leadership style and can force the employees to adapt. The project manager, on the other hand, cannot control salaries and must have a wide variety of leadership styles. The project manager must adapt a leadership style to the project employees, whereas the reverse is true in the line organization.

Availability Executives should not assign individuals as project managers simply be cause of availability. People have a tendency to cringe when you suggest that project managers be switched halfway through a project. For example, manager X is halfway through his project. Manager Y is waiting for an assignment. A new project comes up, and the executive switches managers X and Y. There are several reasons for this. The most important phase of a project is planning, and, if it is accomplished correctly, the project could conceivably run itself. Therefore, manager Y should be able to handle manager X's project.

There are several other reasons why this switch may be necessary. The new project may have a higher priority and require a more experienced manager. Second, not all project managers are equal, especially when it comes to planning. When an executive finds a project manager who demonstrates extraordinary talents at planning, there is a natural tendency for the executive to want this project manager to plan all projects.

Technical Expertise Executives quite often promote technical line managers without real izing the consequences. Technical specialists may not be able to divorce themselves from the technical side of the house and become project managers rather than project doers. There are also strong reasons to promote technical specialists to project managers. These people often:

• Have better relationships with fellow researchers

• Can prevent duplication of effort

• Can foster teamwork

• Have progressed up through the technical ranks

• Are knowledgeable in many technical fields

• Understand the meaning of profitability and general management philosophy

• Are interested in training and teaching

• Understand how to work with perfectionists

As described by Taylor and Watling4:

It is often the case, therefore, that the Project Manager is more noted for his management technique expertise, his ability to "get on with people" than for his sheer technical prowess. However, it can be dangerous to minimize this latter talent when choosing Project Managers dependent upon project type and size. The Project Manager should preferably be an expert either in the field of the project task or a subject allied to it.

Promoting an employee to project management because of his technical expertise may be acceptable if, and only if, the project requires this expertise and technical direction, as in R&D efforts. For projects in which a "generalist" is acceptable as a project manager, there may be a great danger in assigning highly technical personnel. According to Wilemon and Cicero5:

• The greater the project manager's technical expertise, the higher the propensity that he will overly involve himself in the technical details of the project.

• The greater the project manager's difficulty in delegating technical task responsibilities, the more likely it is that he will overinvolve himself in the technical details of the project. (Depending upon his expertise to do so.)

• The greater the project manager's interest in the technical details of the project, the more likely it is that he will defend the project manager's role as one of a technical specialist.

• The lower the project manager's technical expertise, the more likely it is that he will overstress the nontechnical project functions (administrative functions).

4. W. J. Taylor and T. F. Watling, Successful Project Management (London: Business Books Limited, 1972), p. 32.

5. D. L. Wilemon and J. P. Cicero, "The Project Manager—Anomalies and Ambiguities," Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 13, 1970, pp. 269-282.

Customer Orientation Executives quite often place individuals as project managers simply to satisfy a customer request. Being able to communicate with the customer does not guarantee project success, however. If the choice of project manager is simply a concession to the customer, then the executive must insist on providing a strong supporting team.

New Exposure Executives run the risk of project failure if an individual is appointed project manager simply to gain exposure to project management. An executive of a utility company wanted to rotate his line personnel into project management for twelve to eighteen months and then return them to the line organization where they would be more well-rounded individuals and better understand the working relationship between project management and line management. There are two major problems with this. First, the individual may become technically obsolete after eighteen months in project management. Second, and more important, individuals who get a taste of project management will generally not want to return to the line organization.

Company Exposure The mere fact that individuals have worked in a variety of divisions does not guarantee that they will make good project managers. Their working in a variety of divisions may indicate that they couldn't hold any one job. In that case, they have reached their true level of incompetency, and putting them into project management will only maximize the damage they can do to the company. Some executives contend that the best way to train a project manager is by rotation through the various func-

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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