Questions For Discussion

Firms are more in a layoff mode of operation at such times, not a hiring mode. To hire staff while laying off line workers would certainly anger the employees.

But Dave was concerned about other C1M issues as well. For instance, due to the extreme seniority of the employees, the plant would be losing a number of skilled, knowledgeable employees in the next few years. How would he get the needed production information to new workers? CIM could be a big help with this problem by capturing the knowledge base of the employees in the computer system: drawings, specifications, tooling lists, setup instructions, feeds and speeds, gauges and checks, standards, volumes, materials, lot sizes, routings, suppliers, maintenance requirements, and so on.

Dave's major concern in this whole area related back to tying all the CIM elements together—determining a coherent "manufacturing strategy," or "technology strategy." in this process. In a way, he felt that this should be articulated, or at least coordinated.

from headquarters at Troy. But perhaps they felt too far removed from the daily operations in their various plants to elaborate such a strategy. Perhaps they were waiting for Mr. Daley and other plant managers to tell them how to implement these technologies. Would Forrest Daley then expect Dave to lay out the strategy or at least sketch in the outline of some potential such strategies?

It seemed to Dave that the FMS retrofit project should play a major role in this strategy, somehow. Although the cost savings from the retrofit were not impressive—neither an ROI nor a payback calculation was even included in the proposal—the project seemed to offer valuable intangible benefits that superseded the issue of costs. Even if the future of the plant depended on the project, could costs really be ignored? As Dave leaned back to consider the implications of all this, his secretary knocked on his door: "Your call from Troy, Mr. Bergmann."


1. What are the payback and ROI of the retrofit proposal?

2. How important is Medina's "plant mission" to Geartrain?

3. Assume Geartrain does not have the liquid funds to invest in the FMS retrofit project. If you were their vice-president of finance, would you recommend borrowing at 17 percent interest to fund this project? What if you were the president?

4. What should Medina's strategy be and where does the FMS fit into it? Where does CIM fit into the strategy?

5. Is Dave also a project manager? What are the projects?

6. What should Dave do?

^ The following article integrates two views about the requirements for good project managers. One view concerns the personal and managerial characteristics of PMs and their ability to lead a team, regardless of the project. The other view considers the critical problems in the project in question and the PM's talents relative to these problems.

A survey is first described and then the critical problems that projects face are identified from the survey responses. Next, the skills required of project managers, as indicated by the survey respondents, are detailed. Last, the skills are related back to the critical project problems for an integrated view of the requirements for a successful project manager.

Selecting a good project manager is not a simple task. Being an effective project manager is an ongoing challenge. The complex nature and multifaceted range of activities involved in managing projects precludes easily identifying managerial talent and continually stretches the capabilities of talented project managers. Two seemingly contradictory viewpoints have been advanced about what is required to be a good project manager.

One perspective prescribes a set of personal characteristics necessary to manage a project |U. Such personal attributes include aggressiveness, confidence, poise, decisiveness, resolution, entrepreneurship, toughness, integrity, versatility, multidisciplinary, and quick thinking.

However, Daniel Roman |2] maintains that it would take an extraordinary individual to have all of these critical personal characteristics. A more practical solution, he suggests, would be to determine the critical problems faced by project managers and to select a person who can handle such difficulties. The shortcoming with this second perspective, argue those like Michael Badaway |3|, is that the primary problems of project managers are really not technical ones. The reason managers fail at managing projects, he contends, is because they lack critical organization and management skills.

Scholars like Roman and Badaway—as well as practitioners—may actually be raising different issues. On the one hand, good project managers understand the critical problems which face them and are prepared to deal with them. On the other hand, managing projects well requires a set of particular attributes and skills. But, are these two viewpoints really at odds with one another? In this study they were discovered to be two sides of the same coin!

Study of Project Manager Problems and Skills

Questionnaires were completed by project managers ■ during a nationwide series of project management seminars. Project managers attending these seminars came from a variety of technology-oriented organizations. Responses to the survey instrument were both voluntary and confidential.

Information about the respondents and the nature of their projects was collected. The typical project manager was a 37-year-old male, had nine people reporting to him, and was responsible for a small to moderate size project within a matrix organization structure. More specifically, there were 189 men and 98 women in the sample (N = 287) and their ages ranged from 22 to 60 years of age (X = 37.4, S.D. = 8.3). Fifty-six percent indicated that they were the formal manager of the project. The size of their immediate project group ranged from 2 to over 100 people (median = 8.9). Fifty-nine percent reported that they worked primarily on small projects (involving few people or functions, with a short time horizon) as compared to large projects (involving many people or functions, with a long time horizon). More than 63 percent indicated they were working within a matrix organization structure. No information was collected about the specific nature (e.g., new product development, R&D, MIS) of their projects.

Two open-ended questions were asked (their order was randomized). The first asked about the skills necessary to be a successful project manager. The second question investigated the most likely problems encountered in managing projects. Responses to these questions were content analyzed. Content analysis is a systematic approach to data analysis, resulting in both qualitative assessments and quantitative information. Each respondent comment was first coded and then recoded several times as patterns of responses became apparent. The two questions were:

1. What factors or variables are most likely to cause you problems in managing a project?

2. What personal characteristics, traits, or skills make for "above average" project managers? What specific behaviors, techniques, or strategies do "above average" project managers use (or use better than their peers)?

Problems in Managing Projects

There were nearly 900 statements about what factors or variables created "problems" in managing a project. Most of these statements could be clustered into eight categories as shown in Table 1.

Inadequate resources was the issue most frequently mentioned as causing problems in managing a project. "No matter what the type or scope of your project," wrote one engineering manager, "if insufficient resources are allocated to the project, you have to be a magician to be successful." Not having the necessary budget or personnel for the project was a frequent complaint. However, the specific resource of time—and generally the lack thereof—was mentioned just about as often as the general inadequate resource lament. Typically, the problem of time was expressed as "having to meet unrealistic deadlines."

That resources are inadequate is caused by many factors, not the least of which being that resources are generally limited and costly. Before this hue is dismissed by veteran project managers as just so much bellyaching—"after all, there are never enough resources to go around"—it is important to examine the cause(s) of this problem. Respondents pointed out that resource allocation problems were usually created by senior management's failure to be clear about project objectives, which in turn, resulted in poor planning efforts. These two problems—lack of clear goals and effective planning—were specifically mentioned by more than 60 percent of the respondents. It is painfully obvious that vague goals and insufficient planning lead to mistakes in allocating the resources needed by project managers.

The three most significant problems reported by first-line research, development, and engineering su able 1 Project Management Problems_

'■ Resources inadequate (69)

2- Meeting ("unrealistic") deadlines (67)

3- Unclear goals/direction (63)

4- Team members uncommitted (59)

5- Insufficient planning (56) Breakdowns in communications (54) Changes in goals and resources (42)

^Conflicts between departments or functions (35)

Note: Numbers in parentheses represent percentage of c-ct managers whose response was included in this pervisors in Lauren Hitchcock's (4) study parallels those identified by project managers. He found "insufficient definition of policy from top downward, how to define the goal of a problem, and budgeting and manpower assignments" to be the major problems confronting supervisors. It remains true that senior management needs to articulate clearly where the project should be going, why, and what it expects from project personnel.

When project goals are not clear, it is difficult (if not impossible) to plan the project efficiently. The lack of planning contributes directly to unrealistic resource allocations and schedules. People assigned to the project are unlikely, therefore, to commit energetically to the endeavor. The lack of commitment (and poor motivation) among project personnel was reported as emerging more from the problems already mentioned than from issues associated with the project's technology or organizational structure (e.g., matrix form).

The communication breakdowns (problems which occur during the life of a project) were often referred to as "inevitable." These breakdowns occur as a result of the ambiguity surrounding the project, but also result from difficulties in coordinating and integrating diverse perspectives and personalities. The project manager's challenge is to handle communication breakdowns as they arise rather than being able to predict (and control) communication problems before they happen.

How the problems confronting project managers were interrelated is exemplified by how frequently problems of communication and dealing with conflicts were linked by respondents. The linkage between these two issues was demonstrated in statements like: "My problem is being able to effectively communicate with people when we disagree over priorities." "Conflicts between departments end up as major communication hassles." Conflicts between departments were also linked to earlier problems of poor goal-setting and planning.

Managing changes (e.g., in goals, specifications, resources, etc.) contributed substantially to project management headaches. This was often mentioned as "Murphy's Law," highlighting the context or environment in which project management occurs. Planning cannot accurately account for future possibilities (or better yet, unknowns). Interestingly, less than one in ten project managers mentioned directly a "technological" factor or variable as significantly causing them problems in managing a project.

Project Manager Skills

The second issue investigated was what project manager skills—traits, characteristics, attributes, behaviors, techniques—make a difference in successfully managing projects. Most respondents easily generated four to five items which they believed made the difference between average and superior project performance. The result was nearly 1400 statements. These statements were summarized into six skill areas as shown in Table 2. Several factors within each are highlighted.

Eighty-four percent of the respondents mentioned "being a good communicator" as an essential project manager skill. Being persuasive or being able to sell one's ideas was frequently mentioned as a characteristic of a good communicator within the project management context. Many people also cited the importance of receiving information, or good listening skills. As one systems engineer exclaimed: "The good project managers manage not by the seat of their pants but by the soles of their feet!"

Organizational skills represented a second major set of competencies. Characteristics included in this category were planning and goal-setting abilities, along with the ability to be analytical. The ability to prioritize, captured in the phrases "stays on track" and

Table 2 Project Management Skills

1. Communication

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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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