19.9 Organizing a Project
LO19-9 Understand the various responsibilities of a project manager in organizing a project.
Imagine you are put in charge of managing a project. This might be a small project at college such as the preparation of an event (planning a graduation party, getting your ready for a major athletic competition) or it might be a bigger project in your professional life, such as the opening of a new store or developing a new product or service. Either way, you are in charge and you now have to decide what to do. As the project manager in charge of the project, we want you to think about three pieces of work that you will have to tackle: defining the project, planning the project, and controlling the project, as encapsulated in Table 19.11.
|Define the Project||Plan the Project||Control the Project|
|TABLE 19.11 Project Management Responsibilities Table summary: This table consists of 3 columns with bullet points under the column headings. The columns are of varying lengths.|
|Project triangleProject scopeWork breakdown structure defining the activitiesProject resourcesPlanning assumptions||Dependency matrixActivity networkCritical pathGantt chartActivity owners||Ensure early communication for dependent activitiesDefine milestonesHold regular reviews|
Defining the project includes defining and negotiating the three variables making up the project triangle: project time, project budget, and project scope. You then should think about the activities that are necessary to accomplish the project scope. You take the scope and break it up into pieces of work. This is often referred to as the work breakdown structure. The scope defines WHAT the project needs to accomplish, and the work breakdown structure defines HOW these accomplishments will be achieved. Finally, you need to understand what resources you have at your disposition. Who will help you to get the job done? And will these folks spend five hours on this project every other week or is this project the main part of their job? Finally, we find it helpful to document a set of assumptions about the project, including how much time the resources will be available, technical feasibilities, and environmental conditions such as weather, the competitive landscape, or macroeconomic variables.
Planning the project starts once you have defined the project—it is time to think about the execution of the work. This is when you apply the tools outlined at the beginning of the chapter: You create a dependency matrix, draw the activity network, find the critical path, and ultimately create the Gantt chart. For each activity you need to identify a person who is in charge of the activity (which might be you) and confirm that the Gantt chart is feasible (the resources needed are available at the time).
While the first two pieces of work happen before the project gets underway, the important work of a project manager happens during the actual execution of the project. We refer to this as controlling the project. As the project unfolds, your job is to track its progress. This includes carefully tracking the Gantt chart to see that all activities take place as planned. This also includes managing the interdependencies among the project activities. For example, in the case of static coordination of interdependent activities, it is critical to involve the activity owners of both activities early on so that one activity can provide early input to the other instead of simply completing its work and then “throwing its output over the wall” to the other activity.
A common pattern during project execution is that everything looks fine on the surface until halfway through the project, sometimes even later. Then, bad news accumulates rapidly. To avoid this, it is important to define a set of milestones that provide a realistic picture of the progress of the project. At these milestones, the project should be carefully reviewed and the progress should be carefully evaluated relative to scope, budget, and time. This includes the following:
- Revisiting the assumptions of the project and evaluating whether something fundamental has changed. For example, the project might be facing delays because of bad weather or a competitor has entered the market, requiring us to change course. Other Page 674things might have come up (unk-unks) and the longer a project continues, the less likely it is that the project environment at the completion of the project is the same as it was at the outset.
- Tracking the project scope is important because projects have a tendency to try to accomplish more than what was initially agreed on.
- Putting together a task list of all unresolved issues and assigning a team member to be responsible for resolving this issue. Can you imagine that the previously mentioned delay in the opening of Berlin’s airport was a result of 66,500 unresolved issues, of which over 5,000 were deemed critical to opening (including fire safety and elevator functionality)?
A common point of contention in the planning of projects, as well as during the controlling of the , relates to the availability of time from team members. We define a dedicated project team as a project team in which the team members spend 100 percent of their work time on the project. The benefit of the dedicated team is that team members are not distracted by their regular work. Dedicating team members to a project tends to also reduce coordination needs. You get the same hours out of two full-time employees that you get out of four half-time employees, but the communication requirements are drastically lower.
But such dedication to the work of the project is not always possible. As we defined previously, a project is a temporary operation. Especially in corporate settings, this temporary organization is embedded in a larger organization. And these organizations tend to have organizational structures and hierarchies. The organizational chart (also known as org chart) of the organization is a visual representation of the reporting relationships in the organization. To use a military term, the org chart shows the chain of command, with the general at the top of the org chart and the foot soldier at the bottom.
What is special about project management organization is that the organizational chart might not neatly map out the organizational hierarchy that the project is embedded in. Oftentimes, projects bring together members of a diverse set of organizational functions to form a cross-functional team; for example, to develop a new product, to open a new factory, or to manage the acquisition of another business. So it is common that members of a project team report to their “regular” boss (based on their usual position in the org chart) and to the project manager. Such multiple reporting lines create what is called a matrix organization.
Figure 19.12 shows a simplified org chart for a large automotive company. The company has various functions, such as manufacturing, sales, development, finance, human resources, and so on.
Figure 19.12 Simplified org chart for a large automotive company
Each function has a senior executive in charge (say the Vice President of ). The project team consists of a project manager and some dedicated staff who report to the project Page 675manager. However, most of the employees working on the project team report to their corresponding vice president. You can imagine the type of conflicts that arise in the matrix organization:
- Conflicts related to scope: Who on the automotive development project will have the final say on the sales and marketing plan? The project manager or the Vice President of Marketing?
- Conflicts related to resources: The project might be at a critical juncture in its execution, but the Vice President of Engineering needs to take five engineers off the project to support another project in the company. Who on the project can decide what the team members work on?
Increasingly, companies have moved toward providing the project manager with more authority. In cases in which the project manager has a strong influence on the scope and the resources of the project, we speak of a heavyweight project manager.