Project Performance

Project Management as a Phenomenon

“Could everything be done twice everything would be done better” (Graham, 1989, p.1)[i].

Project management is a phenomenon (Graham, 1989, p.1)[ii] as the process of planning, controlling and managing people as a temporary team happens within an environment that does not have the stability normally associated with more permanent programs or departmental management. It is thus unique in that many practices associated with these more permanent programs may have to be modified for the management of projects (Graham, 1989, p1)[iii].

Phenomonology is also playing a growing part in business understanding, in particular, sensing, be that of why customers buy, or why staff behave in the way that they do.

Projects are large unique and complex tasks where the project manager has to identify, form and lead a multi disciplined team of borrowed diverse personalities through a number of project phases.

Managing people in a temporary environment where many of them do not have to report to the project manager directly, results in the manager being in a position of responsibility but not authority. The reporting line is back in the function from where the resource has been borrowed from in the first place.

This has profound implications as the team goes through the process groups and phases of any project.

Different phases have different characteristics and different sets of achievements and problems often demand different types of behaviour on the part of the team and manager.  The number of phases varies by company and industry sector from between three to nine and the phases do overlap and regress so it can be a challenge to identify what phase you are in.

The leadership style may have to change depending on the stage that the team is at in that particular phase. The necessary change in management style, to meet the requirements of that stage, within a defined phase, also need to vary, depending on the stage.

Three stages of a team’s development that a group may go through as it progresses through the project phases are Invite, Invest, Invent[1] and any project is not finished until all activities are complete.

In addition to the evidence reviewed as to what causes projects to fail, uncertainty in the project environment is one reason for not completing projects on time and within the original budget. Another reason is what we have seen before and seems to be a natural tendency towards disorder in projects that lack proper project management (Graham, 1989, p. 25)[iv] .

As projects tend to be new they tend to be learning situations. This is a creative process requiring learning among the participants. Any learning among a group requires communication, therefore if a project management process is in place, it should enhance the creative communication and learning opportunities.

The team may have to create and gain knowledge of an unspecified product by using an unspecified process but deliver it within a specified date applying different management styles to different projects depending on the newness of the product, the knowledge of the process and the strength of the project culture.

This difference in management involves engaging in various degrees of multi dimensionality that we have seen before are planning, control and managing people in a temporary setting.

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People

While these concepts are listed separately it is important to realize they are interdependent (Graham, 1989, p. 10)[v]. That is, the way one plans affects the way one controls and the way one plans and controls affects the people on the team. Likewise, the people on the team will often affect the way one plans and controls. (Graham, 1989, p. 10)[vi].

In this pyramid people are seen to be the foundation and all three parts are required to form the pyramid and interact with it, in order to hold it together.

This would mean that the people involved in executing projects should also be involved in the initial planning and in the design of the control mechanisms, in other words a participative planning approach.

Dimensions of project types 

There are three project types consisting of the project product, the process and the culture.

The first dimension of the project type is the product. On some projects a totally new product is produced while on others a similar end product has been produced before. Generally the less the product is known the more planning is required.

This first dimension of project type differentiates the degree of end product knowledge as:

Product:          Old                                                                                                                     New


 

The second dimension of the project type is the process that is being used to produce the product. In some cases it will be fairly well known while in others it will be learning by doing. Generally, the less the process is known the more control required.

This second dimension of project type differentiates the degree of end process knowledge as:

Process:          Known                                                                                                      Unknown


 

In some cases the process will be fairly well known and in others it will be based on learning by doing. If the end product is fairly well known the process may also be fairly well known.

Then again, some projects involve creating a new process for producing a known product.

Thus the product-process dimensions form a matrix of project types as follows: 2016-07-21_14h33_15

 

The third dimension of project type is the strength or weakness of the project culture. If projects are rare then people may not be accustomed to working on project teams so the basis for interaction on multi disciplined teams may not be understood. On the other hand there may be a tradition of using multi disciplined teams so the standards for interaction may be better known (Graham, 1989, p. 9)[vii].

Generally, the weaker the culture the more emphasis needs to be placed on people.

This type of management also requires planning the utilisation and execution of those resources in terms of people, tools and functions of management, in order to reach a specific goal.

It requires special forms of management to cope with the rapid changes to redefined concepts subject to those changes and to operate a system of teams in an environment that makes teams hard to identify.

As a result projects are a phenomenon, while also being volatile and unstable so for people with a need for security, bureaucratic beliefs, traditional values and conservative motivations, this form of management can be stressful and challenging.

[1] The three stages of development (Invite, Invest, and Invent) are based on research by Georges Buzaglo and other previous literature. Buzaglo, Georges and Wheelan, Susan, “Facilitating Work Team Effectiveness: Case Studies from Central America,” from Small Group Research, Vol. 30, No. 1, February 1999, Sage Publications, pp. 108-129. Wheelan, Susan A., Buzaglo, Georges, Tsumura, Eisaku. “Developing Assessment Tools for Cross-Cultural Group Research,” from Small Group Research. Vol. 29, No. 3, June 1998, Sage Publications, Inc., pp. 359-370. Wheelan, Susan A., McKeage, Robert L. “Developmental Patterns in Small and Large Groups,” reprint from Small Group Research, Vol. 24, No. 1, February 1993, Sage Publications, Inc., pp. 60-83. The original model comprised four stages, Orientation, Positioning, Structure, and Optimal Performance. The new three stage model was developed to be useful to team leaders in defining their impact on team performance through team structures. The new names, Invite, Invest, and Invent, are designed to be easy to understand and remember.

 

[2] In an introduction the to the history of project management the background study on page 1 states “The pyramids of ancient Egypt for example, still stand in well preserved form and maintain their impressive attention to detail after centuries. When examining such historical structures travellers may wonder how they were built without the use of modern construction planning and technology. Building edifices of such magnitude and complexity must have required knowledge of planning, organization and technology that allowed the builders to complete the project at hand. The process must have involved some effective implementation of organisation procedures. This process whatever it may have been, along with all of the resources pertaining to drafting, designing and overseeing the execution of such a structure form the basis of project management (Chiu, 2004, p. 1).

[i] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[ii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[iii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[iv] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989

[v] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[vi] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989.

[vii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989