Human Factors And The Project Team

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and team operation. Such works, however, rarely mention a precondition that greatly eases the process of team formation, mutual dependence required and recognized, though this concept is, perhaps, implied by Katzenbach and Smith's emphasis on the fact that teams (rather than "working groups") "hold themselves mutually accountable" for reaching the team's performance goals |32, p. 112],

Bringing people together, even when they belong to the same organization and contribute their efforts to the same objectives, does not necessarily mean that they will behave like a team. Organizing the team's work in such a way that team members are mutually dependent and recognize it, will produce a strong impetus for the group to form a team. Project success will be associated with teamwork, and project failure will surely result if the group does not work as a team.* If many or most of the team members are also problem-oriented (see also Chapter 3, Section 3.2), the likelihood of the group forming an effective team is further increased.

Another major element posing a behavioral problem for the PM is interpersonal conflict. In 1975, Thamhain and Wilemon published the definitive work on the sources and nature of conflict in projects [56|. We have found their insights just as relevant today as they were in 1975. Table 4-1, based on |57|, relates the most likely sources of conflict to specific stages of the project life cycle. The table also suggests some solutions. When the project is first organized, priorities, procedures, and schedules all have roughly equal potential as sources of conflict. During the buildup phase, priorities become significantly more important than any other conflict factor; procedures are almost entirely established by this time. In the main program phase, priorities are finally established and schedules are the most important cause of trouble within the project, followed by technical disagreements. Getting adequate support for the project is also a point of concern. At project finish, meeting the schedule is the critical issue, but interpersonal tensions that were easily ignored early in the project can suddenly erupt into conflict during the last hectic weeks of the life cycle. Worry about reassignment exacerbates the situation. Both Tables 4-1 and 4-2 show conflict as a function of stage in the project life cycle as well as by source of the conflict, but Table 4-2 also shows the frequency of conflict by source and stage of the life cycle. Figure 4-8 illustrates these tables.

Conflict can be handled in several ways, but one thing seems sure; Conflict avoiders do not make successful project managers. On occasion, compromise appears to be helpful, but most often, gently confronting the conflict is the method of choice. Much has been written about conflict resolution and there is no need to summarize that literature here beyond noting that the key to conflict resolution rests on the manager's ability to transform a win-lose situation into win-win. The Likerts have written |39] an interesting work on the nature and management of conflict, and Hill and White report |28j on how one particular project manager handled a difficult conflict;

* Though team formation is not even mentioned, a reading of A. S. Carlisle's article, "MacGregor" |6| is instructive. The article is a classic on the power of delegation and was clearly the inspiration for Blanchard and Johnson's The One Minute Manager. The Carlisle paper reports on a plant manager who delegates most operating decisions to his subordinates and insists that they help in solving one another's problems. As a result, they form a team that would be the envy of any project manager.

Table 4-1 Major Sources of Conflict During Various Stages of the Project Life Cycle

Major Conflict Source and Recommendations for Minimizing Dysfunctional Consequences

Life Cycle Phase

Conflict Source


Project formation Priorities Procedures

Schedules dup phase

1 program




Procedures Schedules


Labor Schedules

Personality and labor

Clearly defined plans, loint decision making and/or consultation with affected parties. Stress importance of project to organization goals.

Develop detailed administrative operating procedures to be followed in conduct of project.

Secure approval from key administrators.

Develop statement of understanding or charter.

Develop schedule commitments in advance of actual project commencement.

Forecast other departmental priorities and possible impact on project.

Provide effective feedback to support areas on forecasted project plans and needs via status review sessions.

Schedule work breakdown packages (project subunits) in cooperation with functional groups.

Contingency planning on key administrative issues.

Continually monitor work in progress.

Communicate results to affected parties.

Forecast problems and consider alternatives.

Identify potential trouble spots needing closer surveillance.

Early resolution of technical problems.

Communication of schedule and budget restraints to technical personnel.

Emphasize adequate, early technical testing.

Facilitate early agreement on final designs.

Forecast and communicate staffing requirements early.

Establish staffing requirements and priorities with functional and staff groups.

Close schedule monitoring in project life cycle.

Consider reallocation of available staff to critical project areas prone to schedule slippages.

Attain prompt resolution of technical issues which may affect schedules.

Develop plans for reallocation of people upon project completion.

Maintain harmonious working relationships with project team and support groups. Try to loosen up high-stress environment.

The project manager did not flinch in the face of negative interpersonal feelings when listening to differences between people. "You have to learn to listen, keep your mouth shut, and let the guy get it off his chest."

• The project manager encouraged openness and emotional expression.

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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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