The Staffing Environment

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For a full understanding of the problems that occur during staffing, we must first investigate the characteristics of project management, including the project environment, the project management process, and the project manager.

Two major kinds of problems are related to the project environment: personnel performance problems and personnel policy problems. Personnel performance is difficult for many individuals in the project environment because it represents a change in the way of doing business. Individuals, regardless of how competent they are, find it difficult to adapt continually to a changing situation in which they report to multiple managers. As a result, some people have come to resent change. Most individuals prefer a stable situation, and projects, by definition, are temporary assignments. On the other hand, many individuals thrive on temporary assignments because it gives them a "chance for glory." These individuals are usually highly creative and enjoy challenging work. The challenge is more important than the cost of failure.

Unfortunately, in some situations the line employees might consider the chance for glory more important than the project. For example, an employee pays no attention to the instructions of the project manager and performs the task his own way. When the project manager asks why, the employee asks, "Well, isn't my way better?" In this situation, the employee wants only to be recognized as an achiever and really does not care if the project is a success or failure. If the project fails, the employee still has a functional home to return to. Even the instructions of the line manager can be ignored if the individual wants that "one chance for glory" where he will be identified as an achiever with good ideas.

The second major performance problem lies in the project-functional interface, where an individual suddenly finds himself reporting to two bosses, the functional manager and the project manager. If the functional manager and the project manager are in total agreement about the work to be accomplished, then performance at the interface may not be hampered. But if conflicting directions are received, then the individual at the interface, regardless of his capabilities and experience, may let his performance suffer because of his compromising position. In this case, the employee will "bend" in the direction of the manager who controls his purse strings.

Personnel policy problems can create havoc in an organization, especially if the "grass is greener" in a project environment than in the functional environ ment. Functional organizations are normally governed by unit manning documents that specify grade and salary for the employees. Project offices, on the other hand, have no such regulations because, by definition, projects are different from each other and, therefore, require different structures. It is a fact, however, that opportunities for advancement are greater in the project office than in the functional organization. The functional organization may be regulated by a unit manning document regardless of how well employees perform, whereas the project office promotes according to achievement. The difficulty here rests in the fact that one can distinguish between employees in grades 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 in a line organization, whereas for a project manager the distinction might appear only in the size of the project or the amount of responsibility. Bonuses for outstanding performance are easier to obtain in the project office than in the line organization; but, although bonuses may create the illusion of stimulating competition, the real result is creation of conflict and jealousy between the horizontal and vertical elements.

Many of the characteristics of the project management process have already been discussed. Project management is organized:

• To achieve a single set of objectives

• Through a single project of a finite lifetime

• To operate as a separate company entity except for administrative purposes

Because each project is different, the project management process allows each project to have its own policies, procedures, rules, and standards, provided they fall within broad company guidelines. Each project must be recognized as a project by top management so that the project manager has the delegated authority necessary to enforce the policies, procedures, rules, and standards.

Project management is successful only if the project manager and his team are totally dedicated to the successful completion of the project. This requires each team member of the project team and office to have a good understanding of the fundamental project requirements, which include:

• Customer liaison

• Project direction

• Project planning

• Project control

• Project evaluation

• Project reporting

Every member of the project office (and sometimes the project team) must have the ability to satisfy these requirements. Since these requirements cannot generally be fulfilled by single individuals, members of the project office, as well as functional representatives, must work together as a team. This teamwork concept is vital to the success of a project.

Ultimately, the person with the greatest influence during the staffing phase is the project manager. The personal attributes and abilities of project managers will either attract or deter highly desirable individuals. Project managers must like trouble. They must be capable of evaluating risk and uncertainty. Other basic characteristics include:

• Honesty and integrity

• Understanding of personnel problems

• Understanding of project technology

• Business management competence

• Management principles

• Communications

• Alertness and quickness

• Versatility

• Energy and toughness

• Decision-making ability

Project managers must exhibit honesty and integrity with their subordinates as well as line personnel, thus fostering an atmosphere of trust, as shown in Figure 4-1. They should not make impossible promises, such as immediate promotions for everyone if a follow-on contract is received. Honesty, integrity, and an understanding of personnel problems can often eliminate any problems or con-

Figure 4-1. Deal from the top of the deck.

flicts that detract from the creation of a truly dedicated environment. Most project managers have "open-door" policies for project as well as line personnel. On temporarily assigned activities, such as a project, managers cannot wait for personnel to iron out their own problems for fear that time, cost, and performance requirements will not be satisfied. As an example, a line employee is having problems at home, and it is beginning to affect his performance on the project. The project manager talks to his line manager and is greeted with the statement, "Just give him a little time, and he'll work out the problem himself." In this situation, the line manager may not recognize the time constraint on the project.

Project managers should have both business management and technical expertise. They must understand the fundamental principles of management, especially those involving the rapid development of temporary communication channels. Project managers must understand the technical implications of a problem, since they are ultimately responsible for all decision making. They may have a staff of professionals to assist them. However, many good technically oriented managers have failed because they have become too involved with the technical side of the project rather than the management side. There are several strong arguments for having a project manager who has more than just an understanding of the necessary technology. Technical expertise is ideal, but it is not always possible because the individual tends to become a generalist, and a general understanding without business management sense can become a major problem, as illustrated in the following example. A young woman with a computer manufacturer was responsible for managing all projects involving a specific product line. Marketing came to her stating that they had found a customer for the product line, but major modifications had to be made. Since she had only an understanding of technology, she met with the true experts, the line managers, who informed her that the modifications were impossible. She had the authority to spend up to $1 million to make the modifications, but if the line managers were correct, the $1 million would be wasted. She called a meeting between engineering and marketing, but each held their ground and no final decision was reached. She ultimately called a meeting between line managers and the vice president for engineering. The line managers held their ground with the vice president, and the project was eventually rejected.

Because a project has a relatively short time duration, decision making must be rapid and effective. Managers must be alert and quick in their ability to perceive "red flags" that can eventually lead to serious problems. They must demonstrate their versatility and toughness in order to keep subordinates dedicated to goal accomplishment. Executives must realize that the project manager's objectives during staffing are to:

• Acquire the best available assets and try to improve them

• Provide a good working environment for all personnel

• Make sure that all resources are applied effectively and efficiently so that all constraints are met, if possible

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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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