Special Demands On The Project Manager

and for reducing interpersonal conflict between project team members. And all these demands may occur within the span of one day—a typical day, cynics would say.

To some extent, every manager must deal with these special demands; but for a PM such demands are far more frequent and critical. As if this were not enough, there are also certain fundamental issues that the manager must understand and deal with so that the demands noted can be handled successfully. First, the PM must know why the project exists; that is, the PM must fully understand the project's intent. The PM must have a clear definition of how success or failure is to be determined. When making trade-offs, it is easy to get off the track and strive to meet goals that were really never intended by top management.

Second, any PM with extensive experience has managed projects that failed. As is true in every area of business we know, competent managers are rarely ruined by a single failure, but repeated failure is usually interpreted as a sign of incompetence. On occasion a PM is asked to take over an ongoing project that appears to be heading for failure. Whether or not the PM will be able to decline such a doubtful honor depends on a great many things unique to each situation, such as the PM's relationship with the program manager, the degree of organizational desperation about the project, the PM's seniority and track record in dealing with projects like the one in question, and other matters, not excluding the PM's ability to be engaged elsewhere when the "opportunity" arises. Managing successful projects is difficult enough that the PM is, in general, well advised not to volunteer for undertakings with a high probability of failure.

Third, it is critical to have the support of top management. If support is weak, the future of the project is clouded with uncertainty. If the support is not broadly based in top management, some areas in the firm may not be willing to help the project manager when help is needed. Suppose, for example, that the marketing vice-president is not fully in support of the basic project concept. Even after all the engineering and manufacturing work has been completed, sales may not go all out to push the product. In such a case, only the chief executive officer (CEO) can force the issue, and it is very risky for a PM to seek the CEO's assistance to override a lukewarm vice-president. If the VP acquiesces and the product fails (and what are the chances for success in such a case?), the project manager looks like a fool. If the CEO does not force the issue, then the VP has won and the project manager may be out of a job. As noted earlier, political sensitivity and acumen are mandatory attributes for the project manager. The job description for a PM should include the "construction and maintenance of alliances with the leaders of functional areas."

Fourth, the PM should build and maintain a solid information network. It is critical to know what is happening both inside the project and outside it. The PM must be aware of customer complaints and department head criticism, who is favorably inclined toward the project, when vendors are planning to change prices, or if a strike is looming in a supplier industry. Inadequate information can blind the PM to an incipient crisis just as excessive information can desensitize the PM to early warnings of trouble.

Finally, the PM must be flexible in as many ways, with as many people, and about as many activities as possible throughout the entire life of the project. The


PM's primary mode of operation is to trade off resources and criteria accomplishment against one another. Every decision the PM makes limits the scope of future decisions, but failure to decide can stop the project in its tracks. Even here, we have a trade-off. In the end, regardless of the pressures, the PM needs the support of the noninvolved middle and upper-middle management.


In order to meet the demands of the job of project manager—acquiring adequate resources, acquiring and motivating personnel, dealing with obstacles, making project goal trade-offs, handling failure and the fear of failure, and maintaining the appropriate patterns of communication—the project manager must be a highly skilled negotiator. There is almost no aspect of the PM's job that does not depend directly on this skill. We have noted the need for negotiation at several points in the previous pages, and we will note the need again and again in the pages that follow. The subject is so important that Chapter 6 is devoted to a discussion of the matter.


Selection of the project manager is one of the two or three most important decisions concerning the project. In this section, we note a few of the many skills the PM should possess in order to have a reasonable chance of success.

The following is a list of some of the most popular attributes, skills, and qualities that have been sought when selecting project managers:

• A strong technical background.

• A mature individual.

• Someone who is currently available.

• Someone on good terms with senior executives.

• A person who can keep the project team happy.

• One who has worked in several different departments.

These reasons for choosing a PM are not so much wrong as they are "not right." They miss the key criterion. Above all, the best PM is the one who can get the job done! As any senior manager knows, hard workers are easy to find. What is rare is the individual whose focus is on the completion of a difficult job. Of all the characteristics desirable in a PM, this drive to complete the task is the most important.

If we consider the earlier sections of this chapter, we can conclude that there are four major categories of skills that are required of the PM and serve as the key criteria for selection, given that the candidate has a powerful bias toward task completion. Moreover, it is not sufficient for the PM simply to possess these skills; they must also be perceived by others. The fact and the perception are equally important.


The PM needs two kinds of credibility. First is technical credibility. The PM must be perceived by the client, senior executives, the functional departments, and the project team as possessing sufficient technical knowledge to direct the project. (We remind the reader that "technical credibility" includes technical knowledge in such arcane fields as accounting, law, psychology, anthropology, religion, history, playwriting, Greek, and a host of other non-hard sciences.) The PM does not have to have a high level of expertise, know more than any individual team members (or all of them), or be able to stand toe-to-toe and intellectually slug it out with experts in the various functional areas. Quite simply, the PM has to have a reasonable understanding of the base technologies on which the project rests, must be able to explain project technology to senior management, and must be able to interpret the technical needs and wants of the client (and senior management) to the project team.

Second, the PM must be administratively credible. The PM has several key administrative responsibilities that must be performed with apparently effortless skill. One of these responsibilities is to the client and senior management—to keep the pro-' ject on schedule and within cost and to make sure that project reports are accurate and timely. This can place the PM in an ethically awkward situation sometimes. Another responsibility is to the project team—to make sure that material, equipment, and labor are available when needed. Still another responsibility is to represent the interests of all parties to the project (team, management, functional departments, and client) to one another. The PM is truly the "person in the middle." Finally, the PM is responsible for making the tough trade-off decisions for the project, and must be perceived as a person who has the mature judgment and courage to do so consistently.


The preceding pages contain many references to the PM's need for political sensitivity. There is no point in belaboring the issue further, in addition to a good, working set of political antennae, the PM needs to sense interpersonal conflict on the project team or between team members and outsiders. Successful PMs are not conflict avoiders. Quite the opposite, they sense conflict very early and confront it before it escalates into interdepartmental and intradepartmental warfare.

The PM must keep project team members "cool." This is not easy. As with any group of humans, rivalries, jealousies, friendships, and hostilities are sure to exist. The PM must persuade people to cooperate irrespective of personal feelings, to set aside personal likes and dislikes, and to focus on achieving project goals.

Finally, the PM needs a sensitive set of technical sensors. It is common, unfortunately, for otherwise competent and honest team members to try to hide their failures. Individuals who cannot work under stress would be well advised to avoid project organizations. In the pressure-cooker life of the project, failure is particularly threatening. Remember that we staffed the team with people who are task-oriented. Team members with this orientation may not be able to tolerate their own failures (though they are rarely as intolerant of failure in others), and will hide failure rather than admit to it. The PM must be able to sense when things are being "swept under the rug" and are not progressing properly.


Leadership has been defined |45) as "interpersonal influence, exercised in situations and directed through the communication process, toward the attainment of a specified goal or goals." But how is interpersonal influence generated? To all the skills and attributes we have mentioned, add enthusiasm, optimism, energy, tenacity, courage, and personal maturity. It is difficult to explain leadership. We tend to recognize it after the fact, rather than before. We define it anecdotally by saying that this person or that one acted like a leader. The PM must capitalize on people's strengths, cover their weaknesses, know when to take over and when to "give the team its head," know when to punish and when to reward, know when to communicate and when to remain silent. Above all, the PM must know how to get others to share commitment to the project. In a word, the PM must be a leader. (Note: [43 J is an excellent article on leadership for the project manager.)

Another aspect of leadership that is important in a project manager is a strong sense of ethics. There is a considerable amount of attention to this topic in the news media these days (e.g., see |19j), both good and bad. For instance, Tylenol's decision to terminate their highly successful capsule line in the wake of the poisonings was as much an ethical decision as a marketing one. The insider trading scandals—Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken—it now appears, involved ethical issues also. Nixon [32] has identified some ethical misteps that are relatively common in business:

• "wired" bids and contracts (the winner has been predetermined)

• "buy-in" (bidding low with the intent of cutting comers or forcing subsequent contract changes)

• "covering" for team members (group cohesiveness)

• taking "shortcuts" (to meet deadlines or budgets)

• using marginal (substandard) materials

• compromising on safety

• violating standards

• consultant (e.g., auditors) loyalties (to employer or to client or to public)

A project manager, particularly in the public sector, may easily become embroiled in the ethics concerning such issues as pollution, public safety, industrial plant locations, the use of public lands, and so on. There has even been a code of ethics proposed |23] for project managers at one of the annual PMI symposia, reproduced in Table 3-2. The extent of this subject is far beyond what we can cover here but, fortunately, there are a number of excellent books on the topic |4, 6, 34|.

Ability to Handle Stress

Throughout this chapter and elsewhere in this book we have noted that the life of the project manager is rarely serene. While we know of no scientific research on the issue, casual observation leads us to believe that the basic environment surrounding projects is not fundamentally different from the environment existing in the par-

3.3 SELECTING THE PROJECT MANAGER 131 Table 3-2 Code of Ethics for Project Managers

PREAMBLE: Project Managers, in the pursuit of their profession, affect the quality of life for all people in our society. Therefore, it is vital that Project Managers conduct their work in an ethical manner to earn and maintain the confidence of team members, colleagues, employees, clients and the public.

ARTICLE 1: Project Managers shall maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.

a. Accept responsibility for their actions.

b. Undertake projects and accept responsibility only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure to their employers or clients of pertinent qualifications.

c. Maintain their professional skills at the state-of-the-art and recognize the importance of continued personal development and education.

d. Advance the integrity and prestige of the profession by practicing in a dignified manner.

e. Support this code and encourage colleagues and co-workers to act in accordance with this code.

f. Support the professional society by actively participating and encouraging colleagues and co-workers to participate.

g. Obey the laws of the country in which work is being performed. ARTICLE II: Project Managers shall, in their work:

a. Provide the necessary project leadership to promote maximum productivity while striving to minimize costs.

b. Apply state-of-the-art project management tools and techniques to ensure schedules are met and the project is appropriately planned and coordinated.

c. Treat fairly all project team members, colleagues and co-workers, regardless of race, religion, sex, age or national origin.

d. Protect project team members from physical and mental harm.

e. Provide suitable working conditions and opportunities for project team members.

f. Seek, accept and offer honest criticism of work, and properly credit the contribution of others.

g. Assist project team members, colleagues and co-workers in their professional development.

ARTICLE III: Project Managers shall, in their relations with employers and clients:

a. Act as faithful agents or trustees for their employers or clients in professional or business matters.

b. Keep information on the business affairs or technical processes of an employer or client in confidence while employed, and later, until such information is properly released.

c. Inform their employers, clients, professional societies or public agencies of which they are members or to which they may make any presentations, of any circumstances that could lead to a conflict of interest.

d. Neither give nor accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, payment or service of more than nominal value to or from those having business relationships with their employers or clients.

e. Be honest and realistic in reporting project cost, schedule and performance. ARTICLE IV: Project Managers shall, in fulfilling their responsibilities to the community:

a. Protect the safety, health and welfare of the public and speak out against abuses in those areas affecting the public interest.

b. Seek to extend public knowledge and appreciation of the project management profession and its achievements.

ent organization within which the projects are being conducted. Life in some organizations is quite hectic and projects in those firms and agencies tend to be equally hectic.

There are a great many factors in life that cause stress and project managers are as subject to them as other humans. There do, however, appear to be four major causes of stress often associated with the management of projects. First, some PMs never develop a reasonably consistent set of procedures and techniques with which to manage their work. Second, many simply have "too much on their plates." Third, some have a high need to achieve that is consistently frustrated. Fourth, the parent organization is in the throes of major change.

This book is primarily devoted to helping the PM deal with the first cause of stress. As for the second cause, we would remind the PM to include him/herself as a "resource" when planning a project. Almost all project management software packages will signal the planner when a project plan calls for a resource to be used beyond its capacity (see Chapters 9 and 10). Such signals, at least, provide PMs with some evidence with which to discuss the work load with the appropriate senior manager.

Concerning the third cause of stress, Slevin [42] points out that stress results when the demands made on an individual are greater than the person's ability to cope with them, particularly when the person has a high need for achievement. It is axiomatic that senior managers give the toughest projects to their best project managers. It is the toughest projects that are most apt to be beset with unsolvable problems. The cure for such stress is obvious, except to the senior managers who continue the practice.

Finally, in this era of restructuring and downsizing, stress from worry about one's future is a common condition in modern organizations. Dealing with and reducing these stresses as well as the stress resulting from everyday life is beyond the scope of this book as well as the expertise of its authors. Fortunately, any bookstore will have entire sections devoted to the subject of stress and its relief. We refer the reader to such works.

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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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