Pro jcf anSmcnt in Practice

' ScicctingJ^oject ^iagcrs^at'ffliyrelecoin, Inc.

The normal approach to selecting project managers for telecommunications projects is to select someone trained in engineering, since this person will undoubtedly have the appropriate technical background. However, GTE Telecom has found that this is an improper utilization of their resources and instead now uses managers trained in project management, free to draw upon engineering resources as needed. This allows their project managers to handle more than one project at a time and their engineers to work on multiple projects concurrently also. The project manager uses the skills concerning project

Source: V. L. Kendrick, "The Role of Project Managers in Telecommunication," Project Management journal. Sept. 1990.

management—organization, scheduling, reporting, personnel selection and assignment—and the engineer uses the technical skills appropriate to the project as needed and only when needed.

This policy was formulated following three experiences with telecommunications projects, as described below. The first project was to implement a statewide multipoint data network in Indiana. An engineer was appointed to manage the project and was superior in developing the technical design and specifications for installation. However, throughout the rest of the project, the engineer continually had to seek help from another project manager for equipment ordering, dealing with purchasing, subcontractor negotiations, and coordination with operations. This was a misuse of the engineer's time, as well as a severe interruption of a project manager working on another project.

The second project involved the construction of a fiber optic route to extend a statewide fiber network to a new city. A project manager was assigned to this project and drew upon engineering, purchasing, contracts, operations, finance, and training, while still performing his project management functions of schedule maintenance, monitoring subcontractors, and controlling expenditures. The project required four months to complete and on the final walkthrough, engineers were called in to check for any discrepancies from specs. But the project manager identified an over-billing error due to a construction overestimate and received a $35,000 credit on the cost of the project.

The third project required the construction of a point-to-point fiber optic facility within a metropolitan area to provide connectivity to a statewide backbone network. An off-site project manager was assigned as team leader for this project with a full-time, on-site engineer as the local contact. The engineer spent full time monitoring the technical work and was able to identify problems early and inform the project manager, who then intervened to avoid the problems, in one case renegotiating with a subcontractor for additional resources to avoid a schedule delay. Thus, the engineer only needed to concern himself with technical aspects of the project and the project manager handled all negotiations and non-technical functions, such as progress reports, contract negotiation, departmental coordination, and vendor interfacing.

This chapter addressed the subject of the PM, a super-manager. The PM's role in the organization and responsibilities to both the organization and the project team were discussed first. Common PM career paths were also described. Next, the unique demands typically placed on project managers were detailed. Finally, the task of selecting the PM was addressed.

The following specific points were made in the chapter.

Two factors crucial to the success of the project are 'ts support by top management and the existence of a Problem orientation, rather than discipline orientation, within the team members.

Compared to a functional manager, a PM is a generalist rather than a specialist, a synthesizer rather than an analyst, and a facilitator rather than a supervisor.

The PM has responsibilities to the parent organization, the project itself, and the project team.

The unique demands on a PM concern seven areas:

• Acquiring adequate physical resources

• Acquiring and motivating personnel

• Dealing with obstacles

• Making goal trade-offs

• Maintaining a balanced outlook in the team

• Communicating with all parties

• Negotiating

The most common characteristics of effective project team members are

• High-quality technical skills

• Political sensitivity

• Strong problem orientation

• High self-esteem

To handle the variety of project demands effectively, the PM must understand the basic goals of the project, have the support of top management, build and maintain a solid information network, and remain flexible about as many project aspects as possible.

The best person to select as PM is the one who will get the job done.

Valuable skills for the PM are technical and administrative credibility, political sensitivity, and an ability to get others to commit to the project, a skill otherwise known as leadership.

In the next chapter we move to the first task of the PM, organizing the project. We deal there not only with various organizational forms, such as functional, project, and matrix, but also with the organization of the project office. This task includes setting up the project team and managing the human element of the project.

^ GLOSSARY

Analytic Approach—Breaking problems into their constituent parts to understand the parts better and thereby solve the problem.

Benefit-Cost—A ratio to evaluate a proposed course of action.

Champion—A person who spearheads an idea or action and "sells" it throughout the organization. Contingency Plan—An alternative for action if the expected result fails to materialize. Discipline—An area of expertise. Facilitator—A person who helps people overcome problems, either with technical issues or with other people.

Functional—One of the standard organization disciplines such as finance, marketing, accounting or operations.

Systems Approach—A wide-ranging, synthesizing method for addressing problems that considers multiple and interacting relationships. Commonly contrasted with the analytic approach. Technological—Having to do with the methods and techniques for doing something. Trade-Off—Allowing one aspect to get worse in return for another aspect getting better. Tweed Coat Management—The concept that highly educated people such as engineers require a special type of management.

^ MATERIAL REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. How does the project act as a stepping-stone for the project manager's career?

2. What are the main responsibilities of the project manager to his or her firm?

3. Name the categories of skills that should be considered in the selection of a project manager.

4. Why must the project manager be a generalist rather than a specialist?

5. Discuss the PM's responsibilities toward the project team members.

6. What are the major differences between functional managers and project managers?

7. What are some of the essential characteristics of effective project team members?

8. What is the most important characteristic of a project manager?

9. What project goals are most important during the project life cycle stages?

10. Why must project management team members have good technical skills?

11. Why does the project manager need to be a good negotiator?

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