Managing Projects

Managing Projects

Every project needs to be managed to ensure that it delivers what is expected in the expected quality while staying within agreed constraints of time, resources and scope. If the project is small and touches few and well-defined parts of the organization, often a Line Manager is chosen to manage the project.

This may work out providing the line manager in question understands the characteristics of executing project and has sufficient time and interest to be able to move the project forward. However, problems are bound to ensue if the chosen line manager runs the project on par with the daily operations, or perhaps even views the project as less important than daily operations. If the project is not prioritized and resources are not assigned to its execution, it should come as no surprise that the project does not move forward as planned, neither with respect to time/budget nor to quality.

For larger, more complex projects, where deliveries will impact several organizational units and perhaps the entire organization, choosing a line manager from one organizational unit is typically fraught with further difficulties in addition to the ones already outlines above. All too easily, the project becomes part of politicking, power plays and career moves between different line managers. Instead of focusing on how best to execute the project, the focus is moved to interpersonal and interdepartmental issues. What can we do to avoid such situations?


Different Types of Project Manager

The best answer to these difficulties would be to put the project execution into the hands of a person who is highly knowledgeable with regard to the special characteristics of projects and can build relationships with different departments and stakeholders. This person does not have to take part in everyday operations and so can focus on the project to be executed. It is generally advantageous if the project manager does not belong directly or indirectly to any of the organizational units involved in or having large interests in the project in question.

Broadly speaking there are 3 different types of project manager. Of course, it is the rare occurrence to see a pure specimen of a given type. Most project managers have elements from all three types, but with a more pronounced talent and inclination towards one particular type. Each type may be better suited for particular kinds of projects.

Business Project Manager: Has deep knowledge of the business and business requirements for which the project is executed. Typically has good knowledge of stakeholders and stakeholder management. May or may not have deep knowledge of project management disciplines. Typically does not have deep knowledge of the methods/technologies being implemented by the project. Line manager. Typically best for smaller/simpler projects, projects engaging only business or policy driven projects.

Technology Project Manager: Has deep/specialist knowledge of methods/technologies being implemented by the project. May or may not have deep knowledge of project management disciplines. Typically does not have deep knowledge of the business/organization in which the project is executed. Method/Technical expert. Typically best for projects with a large change in methods/technology without major impact on business.

Process Project Manager: Has deep knowledge of the project management and the relating disciplines, e.g. based in PRINCE2, IPMA, PMP or agile methodologies. Typically does not have deep knowledge about the business/organization in which the project is executed. Typically does not have deep knowledge about the methods/technologies being implemented by the project. Professional project manager. Typically best for projects that span a number of different departments, where the departments provide expertise regarding business and methods/technology.


The different perspectives of Project Management

The person charged with the Project Manager assignment will need to be able master the project from a number of different perspectives.

Looking inward: The project manager must have knowledge and awareness of own strengths and weaknesses in general and in relation to the project in hand. The project manager must be able to acknowledge thoughts and emotions and regulate reactions and outward demeanor so as to remain consistent and trustworthy.

Looking outward: The project manager must look to the environment in which the project is to be executed. This implies looking at the project scope, timeline and the resources needed in order to create actionable plans that can be reported on. It also implies looking to the project’s stakeholders and communicating with these stakeholders regarding vision, goals and outcomes from the project. Lastly, but quite essential, it implies managing the project team, provide motivation, coaching as needed and ensure that the team works well together and that obstacles to team progress are removed. In some smaller projects, the project manager also acts as a senior project team member.

Looking upward: The project manager must ensure that the governing bodies for the project are continually kept informed and are available and committed to help reach decisions which cannot be made within the project. This means that the Project Manager must build appropriate relationships and communication with the Steering Committee overseeing the project and with the Reference Group if such exists.


Takeaways

Running a project should not be considered equivalent to running daily operations. In most cases the project is best served by assigning a dedicated, independent project manager with good knowledge of project management theories and methodologies.

Whether the project manager is based in business expertise, technology expertise or project process expertise, it is important that the project manager sufficiently masters the different perspectives of the assignment: self-awareness and self-management, management of stakeholders and project team and cooperation with the project governing bodies. By combining project methodology with good mastery of these perspectives, the project manager can take the project in hand and lead it to its successful conclusion.