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The Art and Science of Project Management

Posted by admin on December 2, 2013

Effective project management can have a significant impact on a manufacturer’s overall profitability. But the continual challenge confronting companies today entails the art of successfully managing people, activities and problems on projects, not just the science of using the latest project management tools, techniques and software products.

While having the technical expertise to manage projects is important, projects can’t be executed without people.  Yet far too often we pay only lip service to the leadership challenge people and performance management presents to project success.

Project teams are frequently comprised of individuals from different departments or units in a company, augmented by outside contractors and vendors.  This presents a unique situation for the project leader: If the project leader is not the project team member’s functional manager, how can he/she influence human project performance effectively to insure the project is completed on-time, on-budget and within the required scope?

Project performance problems can be minimized by creating a project performance system, the basis of which is rooted in a process definition of task behavior. This approach defines project task performance as a function of five interrelated elements, all of which must be designed, understood and managed to create a project performance environment and achieve the desired level of project performance. The five elements are:

  1. Clear Signals for project performance to trigger the appropriate project task behavior in each situation.
  2. Project Task Accountabilities & Responsibilities are clearly assigned. Project team members are trained and have the necessary skills, knowledge and capabilities to perform the required project tasks.
  3. The Project Task Design is logical and correct for each situation. It is free from obstacles or interference, and the necessary resources are readily available in the required quantities to accomplish each task.
  4. Consequences for project task accomplishment to the individual, the project team and the organization support and encourage the desired project task behavior and serve to discourage, correct and modify the undesired project task behavior.
  5. Coaching and Feedback guide project task behavior. Individual and/or project team performance trends are identified, tracked and improvements made.

Use these analysis questions to troubleshoot your project performance environment to help find the cause of performance problems and determine corrective actions:

  • Are there clear standards or expectations for the project task and are they clearly understood?
  • Do project team members have the requisite knowledge, skills and capabilities?
  • Is the work breakdown structure task(s) technically and logically designed, or are you asking for unattainable task performance?
  • Is there anything interfering with the correct performance of this task - any obstacles which would preclude the required performance?
  • Are there consequences in place that support and reward the desired project task performance, and discourage and modify the incorrect project task performance? Are the consequences clearly understood?
  • Are consequences imbalanced? Are the undesired project task behaviors rewarded and the desired project task behaviors sanctioned?
  • What feedback has the individual received that could guide his/her project task performance?

Projects require the science of process and tools, and the art of leadership. And leadership means looking after the human side of the equation. Use these project performance techniques to improve your projects by establishing a project performance environment and to examine the environment if you do not get the results expected. Using these techniques goes a long way to assuring your projects are completed on-time, on-budget and within scope.