Understandably, project managers face some unusual problems in trying to direct and harmonize the diverse forces at work in the project situation. Their main difficulties, observation suggests, arise from three sources: organizational uncertainties, unusual decision pressures, and vulnerability to top-management mistakes.
Organizational Uncertainties Many newly appointed project managers find that their working relationships with functional department heads have not been clearly defined by management. Who assigns work to the financial analyst? Who decides when to order critical material before the product design is firm? Who determines the quantity and priority of spares? All these decisions vitally concern the project manager who must often forge guidelines for dealing with them. Unless done so skillfully, the questions are apt to be resolved in the interest of individual departments, at the expense of the project as a whole. In addition, the project manager must juggle the internal schedules of each department with the project schedule, avoid political problems that could create bottlenecks, expedite one department to compensate for another's failure to meet its schedule, and hold the project within a predetermined cost.
Unusual Decision Pressures The severe penalties of delay often compel the project manager to base decisions on relatively little data, analyzed in haste. On a large project where a day's delay may cost $10,000 in salaries alone, one can hardly hold everything up for a week to perform an analysis that could save the company $5000. Decisions must be made fast, even if it means an intuitive decision that might lead to charges of rashness and irresponsibility from functional executives. Decisions to sacrifice time for cost, cost for quality, or quality for time, are common in most protects, and the project manager must be able to make them without panicking.
Vulnerability to Top-Management Mistakes Though senior executives can seldom give the project manager as much guidance and support as a line manager enjoys, they can easily jeopardize the project's success by lack of awareness, ill-advised intervention, or personal whim. The damage that a senior executive's ignorance of a project situation can create is well illustrated by the following example. A project manager, battling to meet a schedule that had been rendered nearly impossible by the general manager's initial delay in approving the proposal, found functional cooperation more and more difficult to obtain. The functional heads, he discovered, had become convinced—rightly, as it turned out—that he lacked the general manager's full confidence. Unknown to the project manager, two department heads whom he had pressured to expedite their departments had complained to the general manager, who had readily sympathized. The project manager, meanwhile, had been too busy getting the job done to protect himself with top management. As a result, project performance was seriously hampered.
Was this article helpful?
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.