In the present-day, highly competitive business world, the ability of a company to introduce new ideas and to launch new programs and projects on their basis is one of the key factors predetermining successful performance at the market. However, there is no universal plan on how to make the utmost of the project management that would be equally applicable and effective for all organizations. The success of any method or strategy would largely depend on the previous experience of this or that enterprise, its managerial potential, background, working atmosphere, and the peculiarities of the project itself. If one is determined to introduce a development program, he/she must be sure to know all these particularities (Kanter & Walsh, 2004). Successful project management is indispensable to staff motivation, error analysis, conflict mitigation, and development of leadership qualities of a senior manager. The paper at hand consists of three parts, each making emphasis on one of the constituents of the effective project regulation.
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The leadership skills required of a project manager in relation to the processes involved in managing complex projects
Project management and associated issues continue gaining popularity. New standards are being constantly developed, bringing project implementation to a new level of complexity, which arises from an unlimited amount of variables that must be taken into consideration. This complexity is aggravated by the unpredictability of outcomes. Therefore, organizations are doing their best in order to meet multiplying requirements applying modern assessment techniques and investing in staff training. There is an unceasing interest in developing qualities that are necessary for effective project management. Despite this, failures in planning and performing adequate control of multi-faceted complex projects are still common, owing to the lack of leadership qualities needed for this purpose. Thus, taking into account a new level of uncertainly, competitiveness, and anxiety, it is high time we reviewed our perception of personal aspects in project regulation (Thomas & Mengel, 2008).
It should be noted that the concept of leadership completely differs from the managerial approach because the latter focuses on the preservation of the status quo for the sake of running organizational apparatus while the former is associated with setting new directions for an enterprise (Murray, 2010). Therefore, it is essential to move from the old paradigm of management that hinges on budgeting, planning, and controlling functions to a new one that would be built around the leadership view of an individual willing to change a company’s course. Leadership is a practical ability to direct or organize people in order to guide them towards a particular goal. Unlike managers, leaders have the ability to set the objectives that would challenge traditional ways of conducting business operations. Unique leadership skills are associated with having inspiration and vision necessary for motivating and empowering workers (Murray, 2010).
According to various estimations of successful managers’ behavior patterns, it can be concluded that the growing level of project complexity requires from them the demonstration of social, organizational, and technical competences at the same time. The most crucial skills include (El-Sabaa, 2001):
- Personal skills
- mobilization of employees’ forces
- communication featuring anticipation and persuasion
- flexibility and patience
- willingness to share authority
- political tolerance
- Organizational skills
- goal orientation
- the ability to estimate the holistic picture
- problem-solving skills
- Technical skills
- computer skills
- implementation of tools and techniques.
Besides all the enumerated abilities and qualities, managers also have to stay emotionally involved. Only taken together, these factors can generate excellent results.
Questions in staffing projects to ensure success
Any organization faces the problem of identifying the competences required for project implementation and assigning tasks to people possessing them. First and foremost, it is necessary to determine the amount of resources for this or that skill and then to perform staffing, considering the current demand (Heimerl & Kolisch, 2010). Since any project demands multiple skills from its participants, there arises a need in employees who can be multi-functional.
Since staffing quality is not identified by knowledge only, I would concentrate on testing both skills and personal qualities of the applicants. I would ask:
- What are your ideas about the project? This is going to demonstrate if the person has correct perception of the project’s goals.
- What unique technical qualities can you demonstrate? The answer will show me how much self-aware, skilled, and confident the applicant is.
- What do you do to achieve your goals? This will demonstrate the ability to break bigger tasks into smaller units.
- How would you act if… (suggesting any hypothetical situation)? The ability to devise an adequate answer and quickly find the solution will show how flexible the person is.
The last question is the most significant one as the ability to implement flexible approaches contributes to the success of the project even more than advanced technical skills (McComb, Green, & Compton, 2007).
The major causes of conflicts and possible ways of resolving such problems
Conflicts at work may occur for different reasons and have different degree of seriousness. However, for the success of the project, it is essential to approach them all. Confrontations may arise when from the inception of the project if one or several of the involved parties have a zero-sum approach to work (Murray, 2010). It might lead to misunderstanding between team members at various critical points in the project’s lifecycle thereby threatening its success. Another example of a cause for conflict is disagreement about scope or cost (Murray, 2010). For example, if a necessity to change a scope of a project emerges in the middle of its fruition it should not come as a surprise that some of the involved stakeholders might find themselves in a disagreement. Schedule changes is another reason that might trigger a serious conflict (Murray, 2010). Other sources of project management conflicts are described bellow:
- a person is involved in the activity that does not interest him/her;
- the behavior of one person intrudes into another person’s comfort zone;
- two or more people want to obtain some scare resources;
- two or more people cannot coordinate as their working strategies are mutually exclusive;
- two or more people have contradicting values, attitudes or desires;
- two or more people are interdependent and cannot perform their functions separately (Afzalur Rahim, 2002).
The following solutions can be applied in order to mitigate conflicts (Afzalur Rahim, 2002):
- minimization of affective conflicts: by eliminating confrontations of personal attitudes and feelings, the manager can solve all other conflicts;
- encouragement of reasonable issue disagreements: employees should see that they can enter disputes about their work and have different visions;
- flexibility in selection and implementation of conflict management strategies: disputes over scarce resources, working methods, and personal qualities require absolutely different approaches.
On the whole, as with any other problem, prevention is the most effective practice.
Effective project management (especially when one deals with a project of higher complexity) is not a thing that could be taught. Professional training may be useful but it can hardly help unless the manager possesses the necessary set of leadership competences, personal qualities, and communicative skills. Any project engages a variety of employees with different education, talents, and backgrounds, which means that each of them must be approached individually in order to ensure the successful implementation of the project.
Afzalur Rahim, M. (2002). Toward a theory of managing organizational conflict. International Journal of Conflict Management, 13(3), 206-235.
El-Sabaa, S. (2001). The skills and career path of an effective project manager. International Journal of Project Management, 19(1), 1-7.
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Heimerl, C., & Kolisch, R. (2010). Scheduling and staffing multiple projects with a multi-skilled workforce. OR Spectrum, 32(2), 343-368.
Kanter, J., & Walsh, J. J. (2004). Toward more successful project management. Information Systems Management, 21(2), 16-21.
McComb, S. A., Green, S. G., & Compton, W. D. (2007). Team flexibility’s relationship to staffing and performance in complex projects: An empirical analysis. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 24(4), 293-313.
Murray, A. (2010). The Wall Street journal essential guide to management. New York, NY: Harper Business.
Thomas, J., & Mengel, T. (2008). Preparing project managers to deal with complexity –Advanced project management education. International Journal of Project Management, 26(3), 304-315.