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Note: 1 = most important.

Note: 1 = most important.

project, he or she must make trade-offs between the several projects. As noted earlier, it is critical to avoid the appearance of favoritism in such cases. Thus, we strongly recommend that when a project manager is directing two or more projects, care should be taken to ensure that the life cycles of the projects are sufficiently different that the projects will not demand the same constrained resources at the same time, thereby avoiding forced choices between projects.

In addition to the trade-offs between the goals of a project, and in addition to trade-offs between projects, the PM will also be involved in making choices that require balancing the goals of the project with the goals of the firm. Such choices are common. Indeed, the necessity for such choices is inherent in the nature of project management. The PM's enthusiasm about a project—a prime requirement for successful project management—can easily lead him or her to overstate the benefits of a project, to understate the probable costs of project completion, to ignore technical difficulties in achieving the required level of performance, and to make trade-off decisions that are clearly biased in favor of the project and antithetical to the goals of the parent organization. Similarly, this enthusiasm can lead the PM to take risks not justified by the likely outcomes.

Finally, the PM must make trade-off decisions between the project, the firm, and his or her own career goals. Depending on the PM's attitudes toward risk, career considerations might lead the PM to take inappropriate risks or avoid appropriate ones.

Failure and the Risk and Fear of Failure

In Chapter 13, we will consider some research on characteristics that seem to be associated with project success or failure, but sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between project failure, partial failure, and success. Indeed, what appears to be a failure at one point in the life of a project may look like success at another. If we divide all projects into two general categories according to the degree to which the project is understood, we find some interesting differences in the nature and timing of perceived difficulties in carrying out a project. These perceptions have a considerable effect on the PM.

Assume that Type 1 projects are generally well-understood, routine construction projects. Type 2 projects are at the opposite pole; they are not well understood, and there may be considerable uncertainty about specifically what must be done. When they are begun, Type 1 projects appear simple. As they progress, however, the natural flow of events will introduce problems. Mother Nature seems habitually hostile. The later in the life cycle of the project these problems appear, the more difficult it is to keep the project on its time and cost schedule. Contingency allowances for the time and cost to overcome such problems are often built into the budgets and schedules for Type 1 projects, but unless the project has considerable slack in both budget and schedule, an unlikely condition, little can be done about the problems that occur late in the project life cycle. As everyone from engineers to interior decorators knows, change orders are always received after the final design is set in concrete. And yet, Type 1 projects rarely fail because they are late or over budget, though they commonly are both. They fail because they are not organized to handle unexpected crises and deviations from plan and/or do not have the appropriate technical expertise to do so |37j.

Type 2 projects exhibit a different set of problems. There are many difficulties early in the life of the project, most of which are so-called planning problems. By and large, these problems result from a failure to define the mission carefully and, at times, from a failure to get the client's acceptance on the project mission. Failure to define the mission leads to subsequent problems (e.g., failure to develop a proper schedule/plan, failure to have the proper personnel available to handle the technical problems that will arise, as well as failure to handle the crises that occur somewhat later in the project's life cycle) [37j. These failures often appear to result from the inability to solve the project's technical problems. In fact, they result from a failure to define project requirements and specifications well enough to deal with the technical glitches that always occur. (See Chapter 12 for a further discussion of this subject.)

Perhaps more serious are the psychic consequences of such technical snags. The occurrence and solution of technical problems tend to cause waves of pessimism and optimism to sweep over the project staff. There is little doubt that these swings of mood have a destructive effect on performance. The PM must cope with these alternating periods of elation and despair, and the task is not simple. Performance will be strongest when project team members are "turned on," but not so much that they blandly assume that "everything will turn out all right in the end," no matter what. Despair is even worse because the project is permeated with an attitude that says, "Why try when we are destined to fail?"

Maintaining a balanced, positive outlook among team members is a delicate job. Setting budgets and schedules with sufficient slack to allow for Murphy's law, but not sufficient to arouse suspicion in cost and time-conscious senior management, is also a delicate job. But who said the PM's job would be easy?

Breadth of Communication

As is the case with any manager, most of the PM's time is spent communicating with the many groups interested in the project |30j. Running a project requires constant selling, reselling, and explaining the project to outsiders, top management, functional departments, clients, and a number of other such parties-at-interest to the project, as well as to members of the project team itself. The PM is the project's liaison with the outside world, but the manager must also be available for problem solving in the lab, for crises in the field, for threatening or cajoling subcontractors,

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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