Project Management Bottlenecks

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Poor communications can easily produce communications bottlenecks. These bottlenecks can occur in both the parent and client organizations. The most com-

mon bottleneck occurs when all communications between the customer and the parent organization must flow through the project office. There are two major disadvantages to this type of arrangement. First, requiring that all information pass through the project office may be a necessity but develops slow reaction times. Second, regardless of the qualifications of the project office members, the client always fears that the information he receives will be "filtered" prior to disclosure.

Customers not only like firsthand information, but also prefer that their technical specialists be able to communicate directly with the parent organization's technical specialists. Many project managers dislike this arrangement, for they fear that the technical specialists may say or do something contrary to project strategy or thinking. These fears can be allayed by telling the customer that this situation will be permitted if, and only if, the customer realizes that the remarks made by the technical specialists do not, in any way, shape, or form, reflect the position of the project office or company. Furthermore, only the project office can authorize commitment of resources or the providing of information for a customer request. This will alleviate the necessity for having a project representative present during all discussions, but will require that records be provided to the project office of all communications with the customer.

For long-duration projects the customer may require that the contractor have an established customer representative office in the contractor's facilities. The idea behind this is sound in that all information to the customer must flow through the customer's project office at the contractor's facility. This creates a problem in that it attempts to sever direct communications channels between the customer and contractor project managers. The result is that in many situations, the establishment of a local project office is merely an eyewash situation to satisfy contractual requirements, whereas actual communications go from customer to contractor as though the local project office did not exist. This creates an antagonistic local customer project office.

The last bottleneck to be discussed occurs when the customer's project manager considers himself to be in a higher position than the contractor's project manager and, therefore, seeks some higher authority with which to communicate. As an example, the customer has a $130 million program and subcontracts $5 million out to you. Even though you are the project manager and report to either the vice president and general manager or the director of program management, the customer's project manager may wish to communicate directly with the vice president or one of the directors. Project managers who seek status can often jeopardize the success of the project by creating rigid communications channels.

Figure 5-14 identifies why communications bottlenecks such as these occur. There almost always exist a minimum of two paths for communications flow to and from the customer. Many times, strategic project planning is accomplished between the customer and contractor at a level above the respective project managers. This type of situation can have a strongly demoralizing effect.

Figure 5-14.

Information flow pattern from contractor program office.

Figure 5-14.

Information flow pattern from contractor program office.

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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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