Some Comments On Project Management And The Project Manager

The Functional Manager versus the Project Manager

The best way to explain the unique role of the PM is to contrast it with that of a functional manager in charge of one of a firm's functional departments such as marketing, engineering, or finance (see Figure 3-1). Such department heads are usually specialists in the areas they manage. Being specialists, they are analytically oriented and they know something of the details of each operation for which they are responsible. When a technically difficult task is required of their departments, they know how to analyze and attack it. As functional managers, they are administratively responsible for deciding how something will be done, who will do it, and what resources will be devoted to accomplish the task.

A PM, by contrast, is usually a generalist with a wide background of experience and knowledge. A PM must oversee many functional areas, each with its own specialists (see Figure 3-2). Therefore, what is required is an ability to put many pieces of a task together to form a coherent whole—that is, the project manager must be more skilled at synthesis, whereas the functional manager must be more skilled at analysis. The functional manager uses the analytic approach and the PM uses the systems approach.

The phrase "systems approach" requires a short digression describing briefly what is meant by those words. A system can be defined as a set of interrelated components that accepts inputs and produces outputs in a purposeful manner. This simple statement is a bit more complicated than it appears. First, the word "purposeful" restricts our attention to systems that involve humans in some way. Machines are not purposeful, people are. Second, the notion of "inputs" and "outputs" implies some boundary across which the system's inputs arrive and outputs depart. This boundary differentiates the system from its "environment." Third, the nature of the interrelationships between the components defines the "structure" of the system.

The analytic method focuses on breaking the components of a system into smaller and smaller elements. We are not saying that this is the wrong thing to do, it is merely inadequate for understanding a complex system. Regardless of the dissector's skill or the degree to which, say, a frog is dissected, the dissection allows only a partial understanding of the total animal "frog." The systems approach maintains the policy that to understand a component, we must understand the system of which the component is a part. And to understand the system, we must understand the environment (or larger system) of which it is a part. At the beginning of his excellent book on the systems approach |44), |ohn van Gigch quotes Blaise Pascal: "1

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.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment