The challenges at Beijing EAPS Consulting (BEC) illustrate the difficulty of co-conducting a project plan without a clear structure showing the roles and responsibilities of each manager. These situations are stressful, not just for the managers concerned but also for the people who work under them.
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The first implication of co-conducting a project as viewed from the perspective of the departmental manager is that it reduces the attention of the departmental staff because of the assignments that come from the project manager. This increases their stress levels and reduces their output.
Secondly, it jeopardizes the roles that the department needs to play because the project manager does not have in mind the functional duties of the department. This puts the departmental manager at the risk of coming across as ineffective. Thirdly, there is competition for resources because the department has its own functions, which informs the quantity of resources availed. The project manager places demands on these same resources.
When examined from the perspective of the project manager, the following implications come to the fore. First, the project manager comes into the department as an intruder to find a way to get tasks accomplished. This makes the work of assigning tasks difficult because the project manager is not a natural supervisor to the departmental staff, who may find it more sensible to report to the departmental manager.
The second implication is that the project manager, being neither subordinate nor superior to the departmental manager, may fail to know whether a situation calls for consultation with a departmental manager or whether he can go ahead and assign tasks to departmental employees.
These implications arise from the fact that the two managers have a duty to deliver on their individual mandates. To do this, they have to share the resources available without the benefit of a neutral arbiter to ensure that resource allocation is consistent to the organizations objectives.
The two key strengths of the project plan are flexibility and adaptability. Evidence of the flexibility of the plan comes from the fact that the company was able to deliver on its commitments to the clients using only a skeletal staff. The team members fitted into whichever situation the clients presented and delivered according to their needs. This is a valuable trait for a young company that is still defining its place in the market.
The second strength is the plan is adaptability. The plan allowed the company to adapt its structure to meet emerging needs and opportunities. This shows in the fact that the company grew its employee numbers from six, to twenty in just about a year. Again, this is a desirable trait for a fast growing company.
The most serious weaknesses evident in the project plan are the fact that there is an unclear reporting structure, and the lack of strategic forethought in the company. The existence of two types of managers at the same level in the company without different resources or at least a resource-sharing plan is a recipe for disaster.
This situation is what is making employees decide on their own what the priorities are, because each manager has a different mandate. It has the potential of demoralizing the team members to the detriment of BEC. On the other hand, BEC seems to lack a strategic plan to guide its growth and development.
Originally, one of its strong attributes was research but is seems to have drifted towards profiteering because of demand. This is a fundamental shift in the focus of the company. Such shifts should not be the result of external forces. They should be part of a deliberate corporate strategy.
One of the most critical team behaviors required to balance out the expansion and management problems at BEC is big picture awareness. Each member of the team at BEC needs to know what the overall picture needs to look like. This alone, regardless of the corporate structure, will make it easier for everyone to know how to prioritize the tasks that come up.
It will make it possible for both the project and departmental managers to agree on the most optimal resource allocation patterns to ensure that organizational priorities do not suffer because of interpersonal conflict. Each manager should strive to ensure that his tasks do not jeopardize the work of the other managers because this reduces organizational effectiveness.
Each member of the team must remain goal driven. The situation at BEC calls for people to take their role seriously and to ensure they fulfill their part in making the company a success. In addition to having a big picture mentality, the next thing each person must do is to make sure that he is playing his part in making the big picture a success.
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Thirdly, there is need for the whole team to remain committed to effective communication. The struggle between the managers in the case is the result of waning communication between them.
The company ought to institutionalize effective communication channels to ensure that even if there are interpersonal problems, they do not become an impediment to the entire company. This way, the employees will also have an easier time talking about the struggles that come with reporting to more than one manager.
There is an urgent need for the company to clarify it reporting structure. Depending on its operations, there is a need to make one type of managers to report to the other. Since the company feels that a project management approach is the best way to achieve its goals, then it needs to make the departmental managers junior to the project managers.
This way, the departmental managers will be facilitating the projects as designed by the project manager. It will be easier to assign tasks to the employees and to discuss any problems with a clear reporting hierarchy.
The second issue required for the timely completion of projects is clarification of the project’s priorities to all employees. If the current structure remains, then the departmental staff should have a way of knowing which among the tasks issued by the different managers are key to the timely completion of the project.
This is why it is imperative to keep clarifying the project objectives and the time-critical tasks such as those in the critical path.
It is not clear from the case the monitoring and review mechanisms in place. If these are lacking, there is a need to ensure that there is a means for all staff to know the status of the projects they are working on. This can take the form of weekly briefings and daily updates. In addition, this calls for establishment of formalized communication channels to ensure everyone is on the same page despite personal differences.
One final way to ensure the project ends on time is by the use performance incentives to encourage both staff and managers to deliver on activities in the critical path in a timely manner. These incentives should have the express goal of securing the critical path.
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