Comments On Project Management And The Project Manager

Figure 3-2: Project management organization showing typical responsibilities of a project manager.

Figure 3-2: Project management organization showing typical responsibilities of a project manager.

find as impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole, as to know the whole without specifically knowing the parts."

Adoption of the systems approach is crucial for the project manager. One cannot understand and, thus, cannot manage a project without understanding the organizational program of which the project is a part, and the organization in which the program exists, as well as the environment of the organization. Consider, if you will, the problem of managing a project devoted to the development of software that will create and maintain a database, and to undertake this task without knowing anything about the decision support system in which the database will be used, or the operating system of the computers that will contain the DSS, or the purposes for which the information in the database will be used, and so forth. The literature on the systems approach is extensive, but Sir Stafford Beer's works (see, for example 151, as well as |7, 8, 46 47|) which are classics in the field.

Back to our comparison between the PM and the functional manager. It reveals another crucial difference between the two. The functional manager is a direct, technical supervisor. The PM is a facilitator. Knowing the technology, the functional manager has the basic technical knowledge required to oversee and advise subordinates on the best ways to handle their work and solve problems met in the normal course of that work. The PM may have detailed technical knowledge in one or two specific areas, but he or she rarely has knowledge in depth beyond these few areas. The PM, therefore, cannot apply knowledge directly, but instead must facilitate cooperation between those who have the various kinds of specialized knowledge and those who need it. This distinction between facilitator and specialist is a key element in the decision to use generalists as PMs rather than specialists.

Three major questions face the PM in this task of synthesis: What needs to be done, when must it be done (if the project is not to be late), and how are the resources required to do the job to be obtained. In spite of the fact that the PM is responsible for the project, and depending on how the project is organized, the functional managers may make some of the fundamental and critical project decisions. For example, they may select the people who will actually do the work required to carry out the project. They may also develop the technological design detailing how the project will be accomplished. And they frequently influence the precise deployment of the project's resources. Once again, depending on how the project is organized, the functional managers may bear little or no direct responsibility for the results. As we will see later (and in Chapter 4, "Project Organization"), this separation of powers between functional and project managers, which may aid in the successful completion of the project, is also a source of considerable "discomfort" for both.

Note here that the PM is responsible for organizing, staffing, budgeting, directing, planning, and controlling the project. In other words, the PM "manages" it, but the functional managers may affect the choice of technology to be used by the project and the specific individuals who will do the work. (It is not uncommon, however, for the PM to negotiate with functional managers about the assignment of special individuals to carry out certain project work.) Arguments about the logic or illogic of such an arrangement will fall on deaf ears. The PM cannot allow the functional manager to usurp control of the project. If this happens, work on the project is likely to become secondary to the work of the functional group and the project will suffer. But the functional manager cannot allow the PM to take over authority for technical decisions in the functional area or to control the assignment of functional area personnel.

At times, a senior manager (the PM's Immediate superior) will, in effect, take over the PM's job by exercising extremely close supervision over every action the PM takes, or will actually tell the PM precisely what to do. All of the powers normally delegated to the PM are withdrawn and the PM's boss runs the project. This condition is known as micromanagement. It stamps out any creativity or initiative from the PM or project workers, frustrates almost everyone connected with the project, and generally ensures mediocre performance, if not failure. The senior rationalizes the need for control with such statements as: "After all, the project is my responsibility," or "You must understand how important this project is to the firm," or "Superboss expects me to keep my eye on everything that goes on around here." Such nonsense sounds logical until subjected to analysis. The first comment denies the virtue of delegation. The second assumes that everyone except the speaker is stupid. The third is a paean to "self-importance." To be frank, we do not know how to cure or prevent micromanagement. It is practiced by individuals who have so little trust in their co-workers that they must control everything. Micromanagers are rarely likable enough for anyone to try to help them. Our considered advice to PMs who are micromanaged is to request a transfer.

At the other end of the spectrum, the relationship between the PM, the functional managers, the project team, and the PM's superior may be characterized as "collegial," and the organization may be populated by talented people. In such organizations conflict Is minimized, cooperation is the norm, no one is terribly concerned with who gets the credit, and the likelihood of success is high. We will have more to say later in this chapter and in other chapters about building and maintaining teams. Effective teams tend to operate in a collegial mode. It is worth noting, however, that collegiality without talent leads to failure—even if the project team smiles a lot while failing.

Project Responsibilities

The PM's responsibilities are broad and fall primarily into three separate areas: responsibility to the parent organization, responsibility to the project, and responsibility to the members of the project team. Responsibilities to the firm itself include proper conservation of resources, timely and accurate project communications, and the careful, competent management of the project. Many formal aspects of the communications role will be covered in Chapter 9 when the Project Management Information System is discussed, but one matter must be emphasized here. It is very important to keep senior management of the parent organization fully Informed about the project's status, cost, timing, and prospects. Senior managers should be warned about likely future problems. The PM should note the chances of running over budget or being late, as well as methods available to reduce the likelihood of these dread events. Reports must be accurate and timely if the PM is to maintain credibility, protect the parent firm from high risk, and allow senior management to intercede where needed. Above all, the PM must never, never, never allow senior management to be surprised!

The PM's responsibility to the project is met by ensuring that the integrity of the project is preserved in spite of the conflicting demands made by the many parties who have legitimate interests in the project. The manager must deal with the engineering department when it resists a change advised by marketing, which is responding to a suggestion that emanated from the client, in the meantime, contract administration (or our attorney) says the client has no right to request changes without the submission of a formal Request for Change order. Manufacturing says that the argument is irrelevant because marketing's suggestion cannot be incorporated into the project without a complete redesign.

The PM is in the middle of this turmoil. The PM must sort out understanding from misunderstanding, soothe ruffled feathers, balance petty rivalries, and cater to the demands of the client. One must, of course, remember that none of these strenuous activities relieves the PM of the responsibility of keeping the project on time, within budget, and up to specifications.

In Chapter 4 it will become evident that it is very common for the PM to have no direct subordinates in spite of the fact that several, perhaps many, people "work for him/her" on the project. These people form what we have been referring to as the "project team." In spite of the strange circumstance where people are said to work for someone who is not their boss, the PM's relationship to the team may be considerably closer than one might expect, particularly when individuals are assigned to spend much or all of their time working on the project.

The project manager's responsibilities to members of the project team are dictated by the finite nature of the project itself and the specialized nature of the team. Because the project is, by definition, a temporary entity and must come to an end, the PM must be concerned with the future of the people who serve on the team. If the PM does not get involved in helping project workers with the transition back to their functional homes or to new projects, then as the project nears completion, project workers will pay more and more attention to protecting their own future careers and less to completing the project on time. These matters are discussed in more detail in Chapter 13, "Project Termination."

When some members of project teams are highly educated researchers, it has frequently been suggested that such specialists require a "special type" of managing. Often referred to as "tweed coat management," the implication is that Ph.D.s, scientific researchers, and academically oriented experts need careful shepherding. Articles describing the management of research seem to assume that the higher the level of formal education, the lower the level of "street smarts." To the best of our knowledge, there is no evidence supporting this odd assumption. Like most people, scientists seem to respond positively to a caring, supportive managerial style.

Career Paths

A large number of firms may have many different types and sizes of projects in progress simultaneously. Of these, it is typical to find that most are not large enough or sufficiently complex to require a full-time manager. Quite a few project managers are in charge of several projects simultaneously. For example, it is not unusual to find that when a medium or large firm undertakes a program to computerize written records, several hundred projects result. In order to ensure consistency and easy intergroup transfer of data, the program is commonly managed by the division or department housing the computer software group rather than being spread out in the units developing or using particular records. The entire process is apt to take several years.

At the same time that the computerization program is going on, the firm may be planning and building a new factory (three years), undertaking several dozen R&D projects (one to seven years), improving the landscape surrounding its factory in Mussent Point (two months), considering the acquisition of another firm (six months), upgrading the equipment in its thiotimolene plant (two years), buying art works produced by artists in each city in which the firm operates for display in corporate offices (one year), planning the annual stockholders' meeting (three months), and doing a large number of other things, many of which are organized as projects.

Who manages these projects? Where does the company find people competent to manage such a wide variety of projects? In Chapter 1, we referred to the profes-sionalization and rapid growth of project management, to PMBOK (the project management body of knowledge), as well as to the development of college and university-level courses and degree programs available in the field. Although the percentage of PMs who are academically trained is increasing, most of the current group of project managers have no college-level training in the field. By far, the largest group got their training in one or more of three ways: on-the-job, project management seminars and workshops lasting from one-half day to two weeks, or active participation in the programs of the local chapters attached to the Project Management Institute.

The great number of fairly small, short-term projects being carried out, when managed by an experienced PM, serve a purpose beyond the output of the projects themselves. They provide an excellent training ground for new project managers who frequently begin their preparation with involvement in some ma|or aspect of a small project. A number of firms, Procter & Gamble for one, often take management trainees and give them some project-management responsibility; for instance, the guidance of a new cosmetic through test procedures to ensure that it is not toxic to users. Such experience serves to teach trainees many things, not the least of which are the importance of an organized plan for reaching an objective, of "follow-through," of negotiation with one's co-workers, and of sensitivity to the political r alities of organizational life. The skills and experiences gained from managing a project, even a small one, are a scaled-down version of what it is like to run a full-sized organization. Thus, projects provide an excellent growth environment for future executives and for developing managerial skills.

One final note on this subject. If we have made the process of project management seem orderly and rational, we apologize. If any single descriptor could be usea to characterize project management, the adjective would be "messy." In an excellen article that should be read by anyone Interested in understanding the reality o management, Kotter has shown that general managers are less organized, less for? mal, and less structured than college students are led to believe |26|. The same I

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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