Project Management 13: Being an Effective Project Manager


Welcome to Project Management! In this video, I’ll talk about good practice
for effective project managers. We begin with a brief discussion of the differences
between leading and managing a project. People use these two concepts interchangeably
in a lot of cases, but you should know their differences for project management. Managing copes with complexity. Activities that need managing include formulating
project plans and objectives, monitoring results, taking corrective actions according to the
risk management plan, expediting activities based on the project crashing plan, solving
technical problems, serving as peacemaker and addressing conflicts, making tradeoffs
among time, costs, and project scope. In comparison, leading copes with changes. Activities that need leading include recognizing
the need to change to keep the project on track, initiate changes, steering and motivating
team toward new directions, innovating and adapting as necessary, integrating new resources
to deal with changes, etc. Strong leadership is usually desirable, but
it’s not always necessary to successfully complete a project. Well-defined projects that encounter no significant
surprises require little leadership. Conversely, the higher the degree of uncertainty
encountered on a project, the more leadership is required. Good project managers have the ability to
both manage and lead a project. A project manager must realize that he or
she can’t do it all and get it all done. Project success depends on the cooperation
of a wide range of individuals usually involved in a vast web of relationships. Many of these individuals do not directly
report to the project manager. Also, hands-on work is not the same as leading. High pressure and intensive involvement could
mean micromanaging, which is a negative word, and it can reduce your effectiveness as a
manager. Watch this video to see what typical micromanaging
behaviors are in business. The project manager must also realize that
what’s important to you likely isn’t as important to someone else. Different groups have different stakes like
responsibilities, agendas, and priorities in the outcome of a project. Therefore, the project manager should learn
to build cooperative relationships among different groups of people to complete a project. This diagram shows the network of stakeholders. Stakeholders are people and organizations
that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively
affected by the project. At the core of this network is the project
manager, who is finally responsible for project success. The project manager works closely with the
team members to complete project work. So the team is in the innermost ring of this
network. In the middle ring, there are five different
types of stakeholders within the organization. Top management approves funding for the project
and establishes priorities. They define success and determine rewards
for accomplishments. Significant adjustments in project budget,
scope, and schedule typically need their approval. Project sponsors support the project and use
their influence to gain approval of the project. They defend the project when it comes under
attack and are a key project ally. Functional managers can play a minor role
toward project success if the project is managed using a dedicated team or a strong matrix
form. They can play a major role in functional or
a weak matrix organization. Administrative support groups include people
from human resources, IT, purchasing, and maintenance who provide support to the project. In a large organization where hundreds of
projects are going on at the same time, the project manager must compete with other project
managers for resources and support of top management. They need to share resources and exchange
information. Outside of the rings, there are four types
of stakeholders. Customers define the scope of the project,
and ultimate project success is measured by customer satisfaction. Contractors may do part or all of the actual
work, depending on how much of the project is outsourced to them. They must balance their contributions with
their own profit margins. Other organizations may directly or indirectly
affect the project. For example, suppliers provide necessary resources
for completion of the project work. Delays, shortages, and poor quality can bring
a project to a standstill. Public interest groups may apply pressure
on government agencies. Customers often hire consultants and auditors
to protect their interests on a project. Government agencies place constraints on project
work. For example, permits need to be secured; construction
work has to be built to standard; new drugs have to pass a rigorous battery of U.S. Food
and Drug Administration tests. Other products have to meet safety standards,
for example, Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. As an example, watch this video titled “How
Does the FDA Approve a Drug?” The project management structure being used
will influence the number and degree of external dependencies and thus the stakeholder network
that will need to be managed. A dedicated project team or a strong matrix
structure reduces dependencies, especially within the organization, resulting in a simple
stakeholder network to manage. A functional or weak matrix structure increases
dependencies, which means the project manager will have to manage a larger stakeholder network
and relies much more on functional managers for work and staff. The old-fashioned view of managing projects
emphasized planning and directing only the team members. The new perspective, however, emphasizes managing
a broad range of project stakeholders and anticipating change as the most important
jobs. Doing so requires the project manager to be
equipped with sound communication skills, political savvy, and a broad influence base. Therefore, to successfully manage a project,
a manager must build a cooperative network among a diverse group of allies. Networks are mutually beneficial alliances
that are generally governed by the law of reciprocity. Watch this video to learn more about this
law. Basically, the law of reciprocity emphasizes
mutual benefits. One good deed deserves another, and likewise,
one bad deed deserves another. The Latin phrase for that is Quid pro Quo,
which means a favor for a favor. Other phrases with a similar meaning are “tit
for tat” and “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”. Be aware that “quid pro quo” is used here
to mean the exchange of favors that is allowed by law. It certainly doesn’t mean illegal activities
such as when a supervisor requires inappropriate favor from an employee or job candidate as
a condition of their employment. Favors can be exchanged like organizational
“currencies” to build cooperative relationships. Five types of commonly traded organizational
currencies are listed here. They are task-related currencies, position-related
currencies, inspiration-related currencies, relationship-related currencies, and personal-related
currencies. Task-related currencies contribute to others’
ability in accomplishing their work. A project manager can help another manager
through direct resource allocation. He or she may lend money or personnel to help
with specific project tasks. A team member may provide assistance to another
team member by undertaking unwanted tasks such as two work shifts back to back so the
other one may take care of a sick family member. The HR department may cooperate with a project
manager to expedite the hiring process for a team member who will be in charge of a key
task. The IT department may provide a project manager
with access to important information or a database containing technical knowledge that
is related to a key task. Position-related currencies contribute to
others’ ability in enhancing their position in an organization. A project manager can do this by giving someone
a challenging assignment that can aid their advancement by developing their skills and
abilities. Successfully accomplishing the task or assignment
may result in public recognition, acknowledgement of the effort, and even promotion. It may also provide a chance to increase the
visibility and attract the attention of higher-ups or provide opportunities for linking with
significant others in the network. Inspiration-related currencies contribute
to others’ ability in fulfilling their desire to make a difference and add meaning to their
lives. Being involved in a task that has larger significance
for the organization, customer, or society can create an exciting, bold vision that motivates
extraordinary commitment to achieve excellence. Discovering a cure for a devastating disease,
introducing a new social program that will help those in need, or simply building a bridge
that will reduce a major traffic bottleneck can provide opportunities for people to feel
good about what they are doing and that they are making a difference. Relationship-related currencies go beyond
the normal professional boundaries and extends into the realm of friendship. Such relationships develop by giving personal
and emotional backing. Cheering people up when they are feeling down,
boosting their confidence, and providing encouragement naturally breed goodwill. Sharing a sense of humor and making difficult
times fun is another form of this currency. Similarly, engaging in non-work-related activities
such as sports and family outings is another way relationships are naturally enhanced. A new member may feel accepted if the project
manager and team provide closeness and hospitality. Perhaps the most basic form of this currency
is simply listening to other people about their concerns and issues because psychologists
suggest that most people have a strong desire to be understood. Personal-related currencies deal with individual
needs and increase the positive sense of self-esteem. A project manager can enhance a colleague’s
sense of worth by asking for help and seeking opinion. The project manager may also delegate authority
over work and allowing individuals to take ownership of certain tasks and feel comfortable
stretching their abilities. This form of currency can also be seen in
sincere expressions of gratitude for the contributions of others. It’s important that the project manager learns
to utilize different influence currencies to different people. When a project manager builds a stakeholder
network, the first step is identifying those stakeholders on whom the project depends for
success. The project manager needs to find out the
answers to questions like “Whose agreement or approval will we need?” “Whose cooperation will we need?” and “Whose
opposition would keep us from accomplishing the project?” After identifying the stakeholders associated
with the project, it’s important to evaluate their significance. Those individuals with the most power and
interest in the project are the most significant stakeholders and deserve the greatest attention. Then the project manager needs to further
identify the current status of the relationships with the people the project depends on. Once you start this analysis, you can begin
to appreciate what others value and what currencies you might have to offer to build a working
relationship. Let’s see an example. Mike is a project manager. His team is responsible for installing a new
financial software system in his company. After mapping the stakeholder dependencies,
Mike realizes that he is likely to have serious problems with Sophie, the manager of the billing
department, who would be the primary user of the new software. Mike has no previous history of working with
Sophie but hears that she is upset with the choice of software and that she considers
the project to be another unnecessary disruption of her department’s operation. Prior to project start, Mike arranges to have
lunch with Sophie, where he sits patiently and listens to her concerns. He invests additional time and attention to
educate her and her staff about the benefits of the new software. He tries to minimize the disruptions the transition
would cause in her department. Mike alters the implementation schedule to
accommodate Sophie’s preferences as to when the actual software will be installed and
when the subsequent training will occur. As a result, Sophie and her people are much
more accepting of the change, and the transition to the new software goes more smoothly than
anticipated. Building relationships with stakeholders requires
an interactive management style the project manager must get used to. One of the best management style is referred
to as “managing by wandering around” or MBWA. It means managers spend the majority of their
time outside their offices involving in face-to-face interactions with employees and other stakeholders
to build relationships. There are multiple benefits associated with
managing by wandering around. By staying in touch with various aspects of
the project, project managers become the focal point for information on the project. Participants turn to them to obtain the most
current and comprehensive information about the project, which reinforces their central
role as project managers. This work style encourages building relationships
before you need them. Project managers initiate contact with the
key stakeholders at times when there are no outstanding issues or problems and therefore
no anxieties and suspicions. Managing by wandering around also makes the
project managers available and approachable. The managers will be able to identify early
symptoms of potential problems and intervene to resolve conflicts. Watch this video to see a real example of
this management style. You may also see less-effective project managers
who keep away from managing by wandering around and attempt to manage projects only from their
offices and computer terminals. Such managers proudly announce an open-door
policy and encourage others to see them when a problem or an issue comes up. To them, no news is good news. And small problems may have already evolved
into big headaches before they are finally brought up to the managers. Those who take the initiative and seek out
the project manager get too high a proportion of the project manager’s attention. Those people less readily available because
they are working remotely on a different site or those who are more passive will get ignored. Because only the squeaky wheel gets greased
and only the crying baby gets the milk, this management style will breed resentment within
the team. Effective project managers find the time to
regularly interact with stakeholders. In doing so they maintain familiarity with
different parties, sustain friendships, discover opportunities to do favors, and understand
the motives and needs of others. Through frequent communication they alleviate
people’s concerns about the project, dispel rumors, warn people of potential problems,
and lay the groundwork for dealing with setbacks in a more effective manner. Project managers also master the techniques
for shaping stakeholders’ expectations. For example, if you say a task will take 4
hours, the stakeholders may be unhappy if it actually took 5 hours. They may not be unhappy if you quoted 3–6
hours. If you tell someone it will be done by July
when you imply July 31, the other person may think it’s July 1. Don’t over-promise or give false hopes. Otherwise the customers will be disappointed
if you cannot deliver what you promised. Don’t ask for suggestions unless you intend
to do something about it. Asking for inputs raises expectations. Don’t avoid delivering bad news. Expect some anger and frustration. Also offer a rescue plan. Project success is strongly affected by the
degree to which a project has the support of top management. Such support is reflected in an appropriate
budget, responsiveness to unexpected needs and additional resources. The support is a clear signal to others in
the organization of the importance of the project and the need to cooperate. Visible top management support is not only
critical for securing the support of other managers within an organization, but also
is a key factor in the project manager’s ability to motivate the project team. Working relationships with top management
are a common source of anxiety and frustration among project managers. You may be familiar with complaints like this
“They don’t know how much it sets us back losing Chris to another project” or “I would
like to see them get this project done with the miserable budget they gave us.” Many of the tensions that arise between top
management and project managers are a result of differences in perspective. Project managers become naturally absorbed
with what is best for their project. To them the most important thing in the world
is their project. Top management should have a different set
of priorities. They are concerned with what is best for the
entire organization. With that in mind, project managers will get
better at managing upward relations. They can focus more of their energy on becoming
skilled at the art of persuading top management when support is needed. The project manager should cultivate strong
ties with the project sponsor. The project sponsor is usually at one level
above the project manager. They do not manage the day to day operations
of the project but they approve and fund the project. They represent the business side instead of
the technical side of the project. They are probably involved when the project
is being conceived and advocated for its inception before a project manager is assigned. The sponsor’s reputation is aligned with the
project and therefore they defend the project when it is under attack from top management. The project manager should always keep the
project sponsor informed of the project progress and any problems that emerge. Timing is important when approaching top management
for resources. Asking for additional budget the day after
a disappointing earnings report is going to be much more difficult than making a similar
request after an earnings report that beyond expectation. Project managers will find it’s rewarding
to learn the language of top management and use it to their advantage. For example, if top management has a tendency
to use sports metaphors to describe business situations, you may frame a recent slip in
schedule by admitting “we lost five yards, but we still have two plays to make a first
down.” Occasionally, some project managers may choose
to completely ignore the chain of command. If they are confident that top management
will reject an important request and that what they want to do will benefit the project,
they do it without asking for permission. We have seen many movies in which superheroes
behave like this. They take risks and go over their bosses and
often succeed in saving the humankind. They don’t get punished for not obeying the
order but instead they get praised. You may do this at work. It’s true that bosses typically won’t argue
with success. But if you screw up, you may get fired. After talking about managing upward relations,
now let’s talk about managing downward relations. Meaning how a project manager should manage
team members. People tend to mimic the behavior of superiors,
just like kids tend to mimic their parents. Subordinates sense project managers’ priorities
by how they spend their time. Actions speak louder than words. If a project manager claims that a task is
critical and then allocates little resource or budget to it, all his verbal reassurances
are likely to fall on deaf ears. Project managers can convey a sense of urgency
through their actions like setting stringent deadlines, holding frequent status report
meetings, and adopting aggressive solutions to expedite the project. How project managers respond to problems sets
the tone for how the team members tackle problems. If the project manager is more concerned with
finding out who is to blame instead of taking this as an opportunity to learn and prevent
problems from happening again, then others will tend to cover their tracks when they
make mistakes. If bad news is greeted by verbal attacks,
then others will be reluctant to be forthcoming and report the problems they observe. How project managers act toward outsiders
influences how team members interact with outsiders. If a project manager makes insulting remarks
about the “idiots” in the IT department instead of treating them with respect, then
this could become the shared view of the entire team. Project managers establish a high standard
for project performance through the quality of their daily interactions. They respond quickly to the needs of others,
carefully prepare and run crisp meetings, stay on top of critical issues, and stand
firm on important principles. Watch this video to see a good example of
leadership, which features Sir. Ernest Shackleton. Ethical dilemmas involve situations where
it’s difficult to determine whether conduct is right or wrong. A study showed that 81% of the managers reported
that they encountered ethical issues at work. Examples of unethical activities include padding
of cost and time estimates, exaggerating pay-offs of project proposals, falsely assuring customers
that everything is on track, being pressured to alter status reports, backdating signatures,
creating false cost accounts, compromising safety standards to accelerate project progress,
approving shoddy work, etc. How team members respond to ethical dilemmas
that arise in the course of a project will be influenced by how the project manager has
responded to similar dilemmas. In many cases, team members base their actions
on how they think the project manager would do. If project managers deliberately distort or
withhold vital information from customers or top management, then they are signaling
to others that this kind of behavior is acceptable. Ethics involve gray areas of judgment and
interpretation because project management is complicated work. For example, it’s difficult to distinguish
deliberate falsification of estimates from genuine mistakes. It’s also difficult to distinguish willful
exaggeration of project payoffs from genuine optimism. A rule of thumb for testing whether it’s ethical
is to ask, “Imagine that whatever you did is going to be reported on TV. Would you be comfortable?” If not, it’s likely unethical. Scandals like Enron and Arthur Andersen have
demonstrated the vulnerability of highly trained professionals when facing illegal orders from
superiors. Enron was the largest bankruptcy in America
at that time. Arthur Andersen, which was one of the largest
audit and accounting firm, was also out of business because they were reported to intentionally
destroy audit documents to cover up for Enron. Watch this video to learn more about the scandal. Trust is the foundation of exchanging organizational
currencies and exercising influence. A work relationship will be quite different
when a project manager earns the trust of others as opposed to lack of trust. When people distrust each other, they are
much more cautious with each other and hesitant to cooperate. Let’s see some hypothetical examples. Here is what a functional manager said about
how he reacted to a project manager Jim, who he did not trust. “Whenever Jim approached me about something,
I found myself trying to read between his lines to figure out what was really going
on. When he made a request, my initial reaction
was ‘no’ until he proved it.” Here is what a team member told her friend
about a project manager Joe. “At first everyone liked Joe and was excited
about the project. But after a while, people became suspicious
of his motives. He had a tendency to say different things
to different people. People began to feel manipulated. He spent too much time with top management. People began to believe that he was only looking
out for himself. It was his own project. When the project began to slip, he jumped
ship and left someone else holding the bag. I’ll never work for that guy again.” Conversely, trust is the “lubricant” that
maintains smooth and efficient interactions. For example, here is what a functional manager
said about how he dealt with a project manager he trusted. “If Sally said she needed something, I would
not ask any questions. I knew it was important or she wouldn’t
have asked.” Similarly, here are a team member’s comments
about her manager Sam. “My first impression of Sam was nothing special. He had a quiet, unassuming management style. Over time I learned to respect his judgment
and his ability to get people to work together. When you went to him with a problem or a request,
he always listened carefully. If he couldn’t do what you wanted him to
do, he would take the time to explain why. When disagreements arose, he always thought
of what was best for the project. He treated everyone by the same rules. I’d jump at the opportunity to work on a
project with him again.” Project managers encounter a very messy world
that is filled with inconsistencies and paradoxes. Effective project managers have to be able
to deal with the contradictory nature of their work. They must innovate but maintain stability
on their project at the same time. They must be able to see the big picture while
getting their hands dirty on the little details. They have to motivate individual performers
while at the same time maintaining teamwork. Project managers have to be hands-on to intervene
and resolve stalemates, and at the same time hands-off so team members can enjoy the freedom
to explore ways to solving technical problems. Project managers have to be flexible and adaptable
to unexpected events and outcomes that occur on the project. At the same time they have to hold the line
at times and tough it out when everyone else wants to give up. Project managers have to cultivate team members’
loyalties to both the team and the parent organization. Managing these and other contradictions requires
the project managers know how to balance. Project managers need to develop some core
traits and skills that will help them effectively perform the job. Some of the traits are listed here. First, a project manager needs to be a systems
thinker. A systems perspective focuses on trying to
understand how relevant project factors collectively interact to produce project outcomes. The key to success then becomes managing the
interaction between different parties and not the parties themselves. Second, a project manager needs to maintain
a high level of personal integrity. This can begin by establishing a firm sense
of who you are and how you should behave. Third, good project managers are proactive
and take actions before it’s needed to prevent small concerns from escalating into major
problems. Fourth, a project manager should have a general
grasp of business fundamentals and how the different functional disciplines interact
to contribute to a successful business. Fifth, time is a project manager’s scarcest
resource. Project managers must manage time wisely and
be able to quickly adjust their priorities. Sixth, project managers need political savvy
and have to be able to deal effectively with a wide range of people and win their trust
and support. Seventh, project managers have to display
a can-do attitude. They have to be able to find rays of sunlight
in a dismal day and keep people’s attention positive. A good sense of humor and a playful attitude
are often a project manager’s greatest strength. Such traits can be developed through workshops,
self-studies, and courses. Some traits are more difficult to develop
than others, and practice makes perfect. Last, project managers have to have command
of their emotions and be able to respond professionally to others when things get a little out of
control. Some people may say that emotional quotient,
or EQ, is more important than Intelligence quotient, or IQ, for work and life success. Watch this video about EQ. Finally, my suggestion for project managers
is to memorize these three rules: One, build relationships before you need them. Two, trust is sustained through frequent face-to-face
contact. So, practice managing by wandering around. And three, realize that “what goes around
comes around.” Okay, in this video, we talked about the differences
between leading and managing a project. We discussed the need to manage project stakeholders. I explained the importance of building trust
and acting in an ethical manner while working on a project. I also introduced the core traits of an effective
project manager. This is Yong Wang. See you in the next video.

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