What is a Project? The PMBOK defined the project as: A temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service or result. So, a project is characterized by: 1. Time frame: Definite start and definite end. Project end is defined by either project completion or project termination. 2. Unique output: It produces a unique product, service or result..A project output is not repetitive.
Who is the Project Manager? Project Manager: Is defined as the person being assigned by the project performing organization to achieve the project objectives: maintaining approved scope within approved time and cost. He/She is ultimately responsible for the overall success or failure of a project. What are the Main Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager? Some of the main Project Manager’s responsibilities are: 1. Leading project planning in cooperation with key stakeholders and project team. 2. Managing the project team: establishing good communications with team members, maintaining their motivation, resolving their issues, clearly clarifying project objectives and constrains to them (especially scope, cost, time) and isolating them from political issues within the organization.
3. Conducting successful communications with all project stakeholders and prioritizing their requirements. 4. Selecting the appropriate process for project requirements. 5. Following-up and reporting project progress to Management. 6. Measuring project performance and maintaining project constrains (scope, time, cost, quality, risks, resources and customer satisfaction). 7. Resolving project related issues. 8. Analyzing and managing project risks. 9. Proper closing for the project including project filing and documentation. The project manager is the INTEGRATOR for the project components into a cohesive hole.
From above comprehensive overview for the Project Management as a profession and the Project Manager responsibilities, the below question rises-up: How Project Managers used to be assigned for projects? In different organizations of different projects industries (Construction, IT, Researches & Development), Project Managers used to be selected within their organizations mainly based on the so called “Halo Effect” criterion.
So..What is the Halo Effect? It is the tendency to rate or rank a person as high or low for a task based on this person’s performance on other tasks. As an example, interviewers usually rate as applicant for a job at a lower rank based on the applicant’s low academic performance and grades. Often, organizations would entrust their best technical experts with the duties of Project Management. The high level of technical skills and experience and know-how that makes them the best in their respective area is automatically thought to turn them into good project managers. But often, this is not the case especially after the growth and development of the Project Management profession in the 80’s and 90’s. A prime example is the selection criterion during the information technology (IT) arena. The organizations in this arena, used to depend mainly on the technical expertise for system analysis and design to manage the IT projects without regard to their leadership skills.
Project management is a challenging job. This is because a project manager needs to ensure that a project, from beginning to end, runs smoothly and on time. Therefore Project Managers need a broad skill-set. They need to be able to plan, organize, lead, manage, communicate effectively and be able to deal with anything that is not going to plan. A Technical Project Manager however is someone who also comes from a technical background and generally manages technical projects. Hence they can bring an extra-dimension to their skill-set. These technical project managers bring with them both advantages and disadvantages over a General Business Project Manager.
Advantages of a Technical Project Manager: 1. Respect and Trust of Team Members: Technical Project Managers speak the same language as their technical team members. Consequently, communication flows regarding technicalities within the team can be greatly enhanced. For this reason, it is easier for the Technical Project Managers to earn respect and trust from their team.
2. Analytical Management Style (Pattern): With technical knowledge, they can help gather requirements, help find solutions, and better able to identify risks. All of these will greatly aid the overall project progress: They will ask the right questions. They will have the sense of time needed to perform technical specialized tasks or overcome and resolve technical problems or challenges during project progress. This is more important when a project has a tight time schedule. They will not allow exaggerated and unrealistic project time and cost estimates from project team experts either during project planning process or project executing process. Accordingly, they can apply the Analytical Management. Analytical Management: Making technical decisions for the project which the Project Manager communicates in turn to the team. Interview-style communication where the Project Manager asks questions and receives answers from project team is the best for such Project Managers.
Disadvantages of a Technical Project Manager 1. High Self Echo: Technical Project Managers tend to be less people-friendly and less business oriented than Business Project Managers. This is because technical people have a tendency to prefer technical matters over people or business. 2. Deep Involvement in Technical Problems: This is because a technical person has been trained to solve technical problems. Therefore, if a technical issue arises, it can be hard for a Technical Project Manager to take a step back and allow someone else to solve it.
This results in the so called (micromanagement). Micromanagement is a management style meaning to manage with excessive control or attention on details. In other words, it is over- controlling project details especially the technical aspects. As a result: Usually, team members become frustrated with their over controlling Project Manager due to conveying them the feeling of being not trusted or not reliable to perform their assigned tasks. Usually, “micromanagement” results in conflict between the roles and responsibilities of the Project Manager and the team members due to the interference in their tasks.
3. Workflow and Project Progress: Technical Project Managers might think they know more than the experts in the team. This can be particularly unsuccessful as Project Managers as this can have an impact in different ways: Technical project Managers do not apply delegation as they think they are better than others whereas delegation is one of the most successful project management styles (patterns). Delegation: It is a management style where the Project Manager defines goals then gives the team members the authority to perform their tasks. They will not have enough time to spend on the overall project planning, progress and solve raising issues and take decisions on time as the project INTEGRATOR.
4. Communication with Management: They can find themselves not communicating enough about technical issues to the Management. This is because a technical persons learn early in their career that people who don’t have technical knowledge are not going to understand complex technical issues. This is associated with the fact that Management usually wants to hear that things are going well and on time. Therefore, the Technical Project Managers can find themselves bypassing over important technical issues which can easily create a gap with the Management.
4. What is the Best Project Management Competency Model? Since the concept of project management profession as a combination of both art and science is increasing, the Project Management Competency Model was developed from the observable behaviors of successful, professional Project Managers in a variety of application areas. It provides a consistent, coherent structure for assessing the capabilities of current and prospective project managers. In other words, the Project Management Competency Model addresses learning needs that are critical to effective and successful project management. In line with above, a new competency model was developed by the Boston University Education Center (BUEC) to help organizations to determine their Project Managers needs and plan their training and development to fill any gaps. Below three charts clarify the main scheme of this model:
Chart-3: Performance Criteria
Technical Category — Project management skills and knowledge that comprise the ten core Knowledge Areas identified by the Project Management Institute's® (PMI's®) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge® (PMBOK® Guide): 1. Project Integration Management 2. Project Scope Management 3. Project Time Management 4. Project Cost Management 5. Project Quality Management 6. Project Human Resources Management 7. Project Communications Management 8. Project Risk Management 9. Project Procurement Management 10. Project Stakeholders Management
Personal Attributes and Interpersonal (Soft) Skills Category— Foundational characteristics that support a person's project management capability. This category is particularly important in matrix organizations where responsibility without authority is another challenge for the Project Manager. When team members have a dual reporting structure (to the Functional Manager and the Project Manager). In this case, the Project Manager usually finds it difficult to have influence over team members. Attaining good interpersonal (soft) skills becomes a success factor for completing the projects and achieving its objectives: 1. Achievement and Action 2. Helping Human Services 3. Impact and Influence 4. Managerial 5. Cognitive 6. Personal Effectiveness
Business and Leadership Category— Critical skills that enable Project Managers to link any given project to the relationships, resources, and infrastructure of their organization including: big picture focus, political savvy (knowledge), strategic positioning, business operations knowledge, and the ability to build relationships: 1. A big Picture Focus 2. Business Acumen 3. Organizational Savvy 4. Productive Work Environment
5. What is the Appropriate Organizational Strategy to Balance and Develop both Managerial and Technical Resources? What is Career Ladder?
What are “Human Resources”? One of the challenges in a successful organization is the development of their human resources. “Human Resources” is defined as the set of individuals who make up the workforce of an organization, with all the knowledge, skills and abilities they retain. In other words, human resources are the employees of an organization with all their capabilities and expertise. It is the dedication, motivation, knowledge and skill sets of individuals that make a tremendous difference in the organization. Thus, for any organization, the “human resources” or “human capital” are the real asset for their companies without which, organizations cannot long last or compete. Due to significance of any organization human resources, “Human Capital" is sometimes used interchangeably for the “human resources” to indicate the same.
Are the Career Needs for All Employees the Same? Different employees have different and diverse career needs: Not everyone wants to be a manager or leader. Many people want to be professional only in one area or in one product Others want to move into multiple professions and learn everything they can. Still others want to follow a path that will allow them to change the pattern of work as life requires – work hard, slow down, work virtually, or work part time. Accordingly, how should organizations maintain their human resources? Organizations should give their employees (human resources) self satisfaction through giving them the opportunity to develop and improve their knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s) and improve their pay and compensations accordingly.
For every profession or job family, there should be work groups to design the career development plans or “Career Ladders”. Usually such work groups consist of: individual contributors, managers and human resources representatives. So,,,What is a (Linear) Career Ladder?
(Linear) Career Ladder is a symbol for job promotion. In business and human resources management, the ladder typically describes the progression and evolution from entry level positions to higher levels of positions, responsibilities, authorities, pay as well as relating knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s). The ladder shows the greatest benefits at the top. As people differ, a single career path does not fit all the profiles. Consequently recognized is that energy, resources and time should be directed to transform a competent person in a star performer…This is achieved by following the “Dual Career Ladder”
What is a Dual Career Ladder ? The traditional linear career ladder allows human resources to be promoted along either a supervisory/administrative or technical track. On the other hand, “dual career ladder” programs became common in the technical professions like: engineering, scientific and medical industries where valuable employees have particular technical skills but may not be inclined to pursue a management career path.engineering scientificmedical
When properly managed, these programs can help companies retain top talent by offering extended career opportunities while allowing technical employees to remain in their chosen careers and continue to receive salary increases by developing their managerial capabilities. The dual approach says that you can move up the scientific track and be paid at an equivalent level to a supervisor or a manager by being a really excellent scientist and bringing value through innovation, ideas, and scientific leadership. In a different kind of way, it's a manager of ideas, technology, or intellectual capital rather than a manager of people with the administrative activities typically associated with management.
Examples of Linear and Dual Career Ladders: Career ladders either being linear or dual should be properly designed to fit different professions or specific job family. EngineersEngineers, teachers, nurses, researchers …etc, have diverse career ladders.teachersnurses,researchers Exasmple-1:
6. Conclusion & Lessons Learned: As the field of research on project management continues to grow, it is becoming more evident that the success in the role as Project Manager cannot be attained by depending on technical skills and know-how only. Technical skills and know-how are now recognized as one of the minimal requirements for a successful Project Manager. The need for excellent interpersonal (soft) skills is a prerequisite for success. These skills can be taught or trained while being generic for some Project Managers. Further researches reveal that the leadership style of the Project Manager directly reflects the outcome of the project. Jim Johnson, Chairman of The Standish Group International, Inc. - A research entity, targeting to improve the chances of project management success in the field of IT- stated that “When projects fail, it is rarely technical”..Projects, like business, fail sometimes due to poor project management.
In summary, 1. Project Managers can be classified into two categories based on their technical expertise: General Business Project Managers and Technical Project Managers. 2. If you come from a general business project management side, you really do need some technical knowledge and general understanding to work on technical projects. If you come from the technical side into project management, you really do need some people (soft and interpersonal skills) and business and leadership knowledge. 3.As a Project Manager, you must have team members who have the necessary know-how and technical details. They must be responsible for the technical decisions and resulting progress. 4.As a Project Manager, you must not spend your time on technical details or resolving technical problems (avoid micromanagement) and remember always that you manage a team as INTEGRATOR for the project components into a cohesive hole. Let your team handle their tasks according to their experience and expertise.
5.Project Managers should know when to use the “Project Manager hat” and when to use the “technical expertise hat”. 6.For successful organizations to maintain their Technical Project Managers, it is essential to apply the “dual career ladder” concept. This is significant for their salary increase, promotions and continual development. 7.Overall, an effective Project Manager is more significant for the project success regardless of technical ability. However, attaining a technical foundation on top of strong project management skills and knowledge will definitely result in the strongest combination for a successful project manager. In other words, the appropriate balance of leadership, management knowledge, communication on one hand and technical background on the other hand is the best combination for the best Project Managers.