Selecting the Project Manager

Following contract award, Henry Gable called Gary in for a conference.

Henry Gable: "Congratulations, Gary! You did a fine job. The Blue Spider Project has great potential for ongoing business over the next ten years, provided that we perform well during the R&D phase. Obviously you're the most qualified person in the plant to head up the project. How would you feel about a transfer to program management?"

Gary: "I think it would be a real challenge. I could make maximum use of the MBA degree I earned last year. I've always wanted to be in program management."

Henry Gable: "Having several masters' degrees, or even doctorates for that matter, does not guarantee that you'll be a successful project manager. There are three requirements for effective program management: You must be able to communicate both in writing and orally; you must know how to motivate people; and you must be willing to give up your car pool. The last one is extremely important in that program managers must be totally committed and dedicated to the program, regardless of how much time is involved.

"But this is not the reason why I asked you to come here. Going from project engineer to program management is a big step. There are only two places you can go from program management—up the organization or out the door. I know of very, very few engineers that failed in program management and were permitted to return."

Gary: "Why is that? If I'm considered to be the best engineer in the plant, why can't I return to engineering?"

Henry Gable: "Program management is a world of its own. It has its own formal and informal organizational ties. Program managers are outsiders. You'll find out. You might not be able to keep the strong personal ties you now have with your fellow employees. You'll have to force even your best friends to comply with your standards. Program managers can go from program to program, but functional departments remain intact.

"I'm telling you all this for a reason. We've worked well together the past several years. But if I sign the release so that you can work for Grey in program management, you'll be on your own, like hiring into a new company. I've already signed the release. You still have some time to think about it."

Gary: "One thing I don't understand. With all of the good program managers we have here, why am I given this opportunity?"

Henry Gable: "Almost all of our program managers are over forty-five years old. This resulted from our massive layoffs several years ago when we were forced to lay off the younger, inexperienced program managers. You were selected because of your age and because all of our other program managers have worked on only production-type programs. We need someone at the reins who knows R&D. Your counterpart at Lord Industries will be an R&D type. You have to fight fire with fire.

"I have an ulterior reason for wanting you to accept this position. Because of the division of authority between program management and project engineering, I need someone in program management whom I can communicate with concerning R&D work. The program managers we have now are interested only in time and cost. We need a manager who will bend over backwards to get performance also. I think you're that man. You know the commitment we made to Lord when we submitted that proposal. You have to try to achieve that. Remember, this program is my baby. You'll get all the support you need. I'm tied up on another project now. But when it's over, I'll be following your work like a hawk. We'll have to get together occasionally and discuss new techniques.

"Take a day or two to think it over. If you want the position, make an appointment to see Elliot

Grey, the director of program management. He'll give you the same speech I did. I'll assign Paul Evans to you as chief project engineer. He's a seasoned veteran and you should have no trouble working with him. He'll give you good advice. He's a good man."

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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