SKILL PLANNING

Human resource is a significant asset of an organization. Therefore, a satisfactory human relation system is essential for successful execution of a project. To achieve satisfactory human relations, the project manager must handle problems relating to:

  1. Authority: except in the divisional organisation, the project manager, whose activities cut across functional lines of command, lacks the desired formal authority over project-related personnel. Without the conventional leverage of hierarchical authority, the project manager has to coordinate the efforts of various functional groups inside and outside the organisation. While he has formal control emanating from contracts and agreements, as far as outside agencies involved in project work are concerned, in his own organisation he has to contend with split authority and dual subordination.

Since the project manager works largely with professionals and supervisory personnel, the basis of the authority would be different from that found in simple superior-subordinate relationships. For exercising leadership and influence over professional people, he has to explain the logic and rationale for the project activities; show receptivity to the suggestion made by others; avoid unilateral imposition of decisions; eschew dogmatic postures; and search for areas of agreement which can be the basis of acceptable solutions.

His effective authority would stem from his ability to develop a rapport with the project personnel, thus skill is resolving conflicts among various people working on the project, his professional reputation and stature, his skills in communication and persuasion, and his ability to act as a buffer between the technical, financial, engineering and commercial people involved in the project.

  1. Orientation: most of the managers working for a project are usually engineers or technologists. Generally, an engineer:
  • Works with physical laws, characteristics by mathematical precision, as his tools
  • Adopts a structured, mechanical approach to his problem.
  • Attaches a high value on technical perfection.

When an engineer assumes managerial responsibilities, he faces a very different world in which he hi supposed to:

  • Perform the tasks of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling the resources of the firm in a world of uncertainty.
  • Adopt a more creative approach to solve non-programmed and unstructured problems.
  • Attach greater importance to efficient utilization of resources and resolution of human relation problems.

Thus, the project manager has to strengthen the managerial orientation of project personnel so the project goals and objectives can be effectively achieved within the constraints of time and budget. Clearly for achieving this task he must himself be an accomplished engineer-manager.

  1. Motivation: the project manager functions within the boundaries of a socio-technical system. Most of the factors of these system-organisational structure technical requirements, competencies of project personnel-are more or less ‘given’ for him. The principal behavioural factor which he can influence is the motivation of the project personnel. In this context, he should bear in mind the following:
  • Human beings are motivated by a variety of need: physiological, social, recognition, and self-esteem needs. Individuals differ greatly in the importance they attach to various need satisfactions. Further, their attitudes tend to change with time and circumstances, and are significantly influenced by their peers and superiors.
  • The traditional approach to management was based on the assumption that human beings regard work as unpleasant, shirk responsibility, and ordinarily employ inefficient and wasteful methods. Such a concept of human behavior suggests that a great deal of pressure has to be applied. Behavioral research, however, has shown that while some pressure is beneficial, an excess of it is undesirable. Beyond a certain point pressure is dysfunctional.
  • Motivation tends to be strong when the goal set is challenging, yet attainable. If the goal is too demanding, it results in frustration and conflict; if too lax, it induces complacency.
  • Expectation of reward, rather than fear of punishment, has a greater bearing on individual behaviour. Further, the effectiveness of reward or punishment depends on how quickly it is administered.
  • In a project setting where factors are reasonably taken care of, the principal motivators would be a sense of accomplishment and professional growth. In this setting, the project manager should rely more on participative methods of management.

 

  1. Group functioning: in a large complex project, many persons drawn from different functions, departments and organisations are involved. This leads to formation of groups, formal and informal. According to Rensis Likert, organisations may be considered as systems of interlocking groups. Thus, in a typical project organisation, many interlocking and interdependent groups are formed.

The groups formed in a project setting may be of three types: vertical groups, horizontal groups, and mixed groups. A vertical group consists of people drawn from different levels in the same department, or function, or company. A horizontal group consists of people drawn from different functions, departments, and companies, but occupying similar hierarchical positions. A mixed group consists of people drawn from different levels from various departments, functions and companies.

A vertical group tends to form most naturally because of department, functional and organisational affinities. However, the existence of such groups may lead to pronounced “we/they” attitude and accentuate conflicts. A horizontal group, in a useful instrument is linking the overall project organisation. The members of the horizontal group, occupying key positions in their respective fields, serve a channel of communication. By their influence, they can strengthen the commitment to the project. . The mixed group tends to promote greater cohesion of the total project organisation. It is very conducive to creating a ‘project’ attitude and developing an overriding commitment for the project. Hence, the project manager should strive to establish a mixed group as a principal group of the project. However, it is difficult to establish such a group because of the temporary nature of a project-when members of the group know that the group would be dissolved sooner or later, they retain strong links with their Parent Company or department.

 

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