MBA management

Project Manager Topics:

Meaning of Project Manager

A project manager is a professional in the field of Project management. Project managers can have the responsibility of the planning, execution and closing of any project, typically relating to construction industry, architecture, computer networking, telecommunications or software development.

A project manager is a facilitator. The ideal project manager does whatever it takes to ensure that the members of the software project team can do their work. This means working with management to ensure that they provide the resources and support required as well as dealing with team issues that are negatively impacting a team’s productivity. The project manager must possess a combination of skills including the ability to ask penetrating questions, identify unstated assumptions and resolve personnel conflicts along with more systematic management skills.

The actions of a project manager should be almost unnoticeable and when a project is moving along smoothly people are sometimes tempted to question the need for a project manager. The project manager is the one who is responsible for making decisions in such a way that risk is controlled and uncertainty minimized. Every decision made by the project manager should ideally be direct benefit to the project.

Qualities of the Project Manager

The project manager is key ingredient in the success of a project. In addition to providing leadership in planning, organizing and controlling the manager should possess a set of skills that will both inspire the project tam to succeed and win the confidence of the customer.

1) Leadership Ability: Leadership is getting things done through others; the project manager achieves results through the project team. Project leadership involves inspiring the people assigned to the project to work as a team to implement the plan and achieve the project objective successfully. The project manager needs to create for the team a vision of the result and benefits of the project. For example, the project manager may describe a new layout for a plant that will be the result of a project and articulate the benefits of this project, such as the elimination of bottlenecks, increased throughput and reduced inventory. When project team members can envision the result, they will be more motivated to work as a team to complete the project successfully.

Project leadership requires involvement and empowerment of the project team. Individuals want to have ownership and control of their own work. They want to show that they can accomplish goals and meet challenges. The project manager should involve individuals in decisions affecting them and should empower them to make decisions within their assigned areas of responsibility.

2) Ability to Develop People: The effective project manager has a commitment to the training and development of people working on the project. He or uses the project as an opportunity to add value to each person’s experience base so that all members of the project team are more knowledgeable and competent at the end of the project than when they started it. The project manager should establish an environment where people can learn from the tasks they perform and the situations they experience or observe and he or she must communicate to the team the importance of continuous self- development activities. One way of encouraging such activities is to talk about the importance of self-development at project team meetings. Another way is to meet with project team members individually at the start of their project assignments and encourage them to take advantage of their assignments to expand their knowledge and skills.

3) Communication skills: Project managers must be good communicators. They need to communicate regularly with the project team, as well as with any sub-contractors, the customer and their own company’s upper management. Effective and frequent communication is crucial for keeping the project moving, identifying potential problems and soliciting suggestions to improve project performance, keeping abreast of customer satisfaction and avoiding surprises. A high level of communication is especially important early in the project to build a good working relationship with the project team and to establish clear expectations with the customer.

Effective project managers communicate and share information in a variety of ways, they have meetings and informal conversations with the project team, the customer and the company’s upper management. They also provide written reports to the customer and upper management. All these tasks require that the project manager have good oral and written communication skills.

4) Interpersonal Skills: The project manager needs to establish clear expectations of members or the project team so that everyone knows the importance of his or her role in achieving the project objective. The project manager can do so by involving the team in developing a project plan that shows which people are assigned to which tasks and how those tasks fit together. Much like the coach of an athletic team, the project manager should emphasize that everyone’s contribution is valuable to executing the plan successfully.

It is important that the project manager develop a relationship with each person on the project team. This may sound like a time consuming activity, but it isn’t necessarily so. It requires making the time to have an informal conversation with each person on the project team and with each key individual in the customer’s organization. These conversations, initiated by thee project manager, can take place during work or outside the office. They can occur over lunch, while traveling with thee person on a business trip or while sitting next to the individual at a Little League game. Such situations provide an opportunity for the project manager to get to know the various people on the project team.

5) Ability to handle Stress: Project managers need to be able to handle the stress that can arise from work situations. Stress is likely to b high when a project is in jeopardy of not meeting its objective because of a cost overrun, a schedule delay or technical problems with the equipment or system; when changes in scope are requested by the customer; or when conflict arises within the project team regarding the most appropriate solution to a problem. Project activity can get both tense and intense at times. The project manager cannot panic; she or he has to remain unruffled. The effective project manager is able to cope with constantly changing conditions.

The project manager needs to have a good sense of humor. Used appropriately, humor can help a project manager handle thee stress and break the tension. Since the project manager sets an example for the project team and demonstrates what acceptable behavior on the projects, any humor must be in good taste. A manager should not till inappropriate jokes or have improper items hanging on the office wall and he or she must make it known to the project team right from the beginning that such behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

6) Problem-solving Skills: A project manager needs to be a good problem solver problem solver. Although it’s easier to identify problems than to solve them, good problem-solving starts with the early identification of a problem or potential problem. Early identification of a problem will allow more time to develop a well – though-out solution. In addition, if a problem is identified early, it may be less costly to solve and may have less impact on other parts of the project. Good problem identification requires a timely and accurate data – driven information system; open and timely communication among the project team, the sub-contractors and the customer and some “get feelings” based on experience.

The project manager should encourage project team members to identify problems early and solve them on their own. The project team needs to be self-directed in solving problems and not wait for or depend on the project manager to get them started.

7) Time management Skills: Good project managers manage their time well. Projects require a lot of energy because they involve many concurrent activities and unexpected events. To make optimal use of the time available, project managers have to have self-discipline, be able prioritize and show a willingness to delegate.

Roles of the Project Manager

Corporate management will formulate, define and communicate its expectations to functional managers and to project managers very carefully. This may be done best by preparing a written description of the project manager’s role and the functional manager’s role in each of these areas. In any given situation or company, there will be other areas that need role definition:

1) Project Planning: It is usually the project manager’s responsibility to prepare the project plan. The role of the functional managers in assisting the project manager must be clearly defined. They should also usually bear the burden of the detailed discipline planning to confirm to the overall project plan.

2) Project Organization: The project manager usually adapts the standard project chart to the specific requirements of the project at hand. The role that functional management plays in concurring or modifying the project chart must be determined by senior management.

3) Project Staffing: For each position shown on the chart, the functional manager will supply candidates. The project manager’s role in selection/approval of the project team requires clarification by senior management.

4) Personnel Administration: Normally, this is the responsibility of the functional manager. The project manager is responsible for maintaining discipline within the taskforce area.

5) Contact Administration: Thee involvement of the project manager vis a vis the legal department in interpreting and administering the contract should be clearly defined so that each a aware of the split of responsibilities.

6) Technical Management: The exact expectations as to the responsibility for management of engineering and other technical personnel are needed to be defined. Management responsibilities are frequently split and the interfaces need to be clarified.

7) Project Administration: A function of project management. Any exceptions should be identified and made clear.

8) Final Administration: A function of the project manager with each of the specific exceptions and limitations noted.

9) Communication: Communication requires dedication from both project and functional management. Senior management expectations should be noted.

10) Materials Management: In organization with strong procurement involvement, it will be necessary to specifically define those responsibilities which are assigned to project management.

11) Construction: The project manager’s involvement during the construction phase and at the jobsite requires careful definition to distinguish his responsibilities from those of the construction manager.

12) Turnover of Facilities to Owner: The split of responsibilities among the owner, initial operations department and the project should be carefully identified, preferably by means of a checklist assigning each anticipated activity to one specific party.

13) Performance assurance: responsibility of each individual for his own work, of functional management for the work done by each discipline and the project manager for the overall project work.

14) Client relations: The basic responsibility must remain with the project manager. He must have help from senior management and from discipline specialists.

15) Job Close-Out: A complete listing of project responsibilities and departmental responsibilities is required. Instructions for charging of time are needed.

The clear-cut assignment of responsibility to functional and project management in each of these areas will reduce unnecessary conflict and confusion during the execution of the project.

Challenges of Managing Project

Work that is unique and temporary requires different management disciplines. Because projects have different characteristics than ongoing operations, they pose a brand-new set of challenges. Here are some of the challenges that face project managers:

1. Personal: Every project has different personnel needs. The number of people needed- and their different skills sets- is different for each project. Where do these people come from? Where do they go, once they are no longer needed? These staffing problems may be compounded if several projects are running simultaneously. If all projects hit their resource peak at the same time, it could place an impossible burden on an organization. And if all the projects should end around the same time, the company may be forced into lay-offs.

2. Estimating: In order to evaluate potential projects, organizations need accurate estimates of costs and schedules. But because each project is different, estimates may contain more assumptions than facts.

3. Authority: Organization charts define authority within a firm, but they usually represent the ongoing operations of the firm. When projects cross-organizational boundaries it is no longer clear who has authority for many decisions. This can lead to political maneuvering and a gridlock that blocks progress.

4. Controls: Normal accounting practices match operational budgets to operational costs on a quarterly or annual basis. But these timeframes are not sufficient to keep a project on track. By the time, quarterly accounting reports show a project over budget, it may be so far out of control that it is beyond recovery.

This list of difficulties and challenges could go on, but it should be clear by now that managing projects is not the same as managing ongoing operations. Notice that this does not mean project management is more difficult than managing ongoing operations-only that managing projects presents a different set of challenges.
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