The common denominator of all successful projects is the capacity and quality of its project managing mechanism. Project management is the discipline that integrates various processes towards the achievement of specific objectives and deliverables. This discipline is founded under the premise that all projects are unique, and no two are ever the same. Managing the efforts of those individuals involved requires a great deal of coordination, organization, and a forward thinking focus on the project’s objective[s]. Facilitating a successful integration of people variables and project variables towards specific objectives is the condition that the project management function provides.
There is an enormous disparity between projects and operational processes. While each paradigms purpose is to yield a value and/or benefit to the organization the manner in which those values are created varies greatly. Operational processes involve the creation of organizational wealth through the manufacturing of a product or service. These processes are typically mechanistic and consuming specific resources while yielding linear and proportional revenues. In contrast, project objectives are unique, which inhibits the structuralizing of any procedural or mechanistic components. Projects occur within a lifecycle which begins with the projects selection. It is at this stage of the cycle that the project outcome is assessed for feasibility. “Project selection, the initial phase, refers to the time frame during which a strategic need is recognized by top management. It starts with identifying the needs and desires of the user of the project deliverables-the customer” (Jiang & Heiser, 2004). Very little resource consumption and collaborative efforts occur at this stage.
The development stage of the project is a more involved process. It is during this stage that risk and impacts become realized and project management integration is applied. It is vital the project managers have a clear understanding of the project objective at this stage, and that risk mitigating plans be fully implemented. “The project manager and newly assigned team members meet to plan jointly at a macro level of detail the major activities that must be accomplished” (Jiang & Heiser, 2004). The third stage of a projects life cycle consists of implementation. It is during this stage that higher levels of risk are prevalent. “This is generally the longest phase of the project both in terms of duration and effort (Kloppenborg & Petrick, 1999). Implementation efforts can be highly involved and complex determined primarily by the scope and scale of the project. The fourth and final stage of the project life cycle is its termination. At this stage the project has become fully implemented, and any programs, products, or services are fully adopted by the end-users. A project that has achieved this stage on-or-under budget and time is considered successful. As budgets and time become inflated a projects success become proportionately debilitated.
If the issues and impact affecting those consequences go unaddressed, the project will fail entirely. It is for this reason that measuring progress—at the micro level—and through each phase of the projects life cycle is crucial. A successful project manager not only maintains a constant focus on the projects end result, but also assesses task completion and progress on the basis of their costs and timing. When either these components become debilitated or show signs of retardation, it becomes the projects managers’ responsibility to escalate those efforts to appropriate levels of progress. Achieving this outcome requires that project managers possess those leadership qualities needed to motivate the necessary mechanisms. Furthermore, that assumes that leadership qualities affect accurate and effective communications to every layer of the organizational structure. One of the most important contributions project managers make to a project is the leadership capacity they fulfill. Effective leaders remain engaged throughout the projects lifecycle by the decisions they make and the efforts they put forward.
However, effective leaders must also know when a situation/issue needs to escalated. The timing of the escalation is important, because it does not do any good if that effort is reactive to the point that the solicited response becomes invalid. The study [Royal Air Force study] also found the universal applicability of the interpersonal sensitivity, influence and communication skills required to interact, whether it be in management co-ordination and problem solving, leadership motivation or command decision making, and that personal motivation, vigour and conscientious commitment that will lead to managerial control of the environment will also support leadership mastery and command success. (Turner, Müller, & Dulewicz(2009). The impact these competencies have on the leadership and sponsorship capacity of project managers is invaluable to those efforts. Project managers that cannot effectively fulfill these conditions will find it difficult to motivate and escalate progress where necessary.
Capital improvement and traffic safety projects are the culmination of a series of complex phases. These phases consist of scoping and formalizing the projects charter; assigning authorization and responsibilities to each stakeholder; and procuring the necessary resources to execute and complete the project. Because these activities are performed by various project team members and outside stakeholders the activities require a great deal of coordination and communication in order to effectively perform the individual assignments and tasks. The success of these capital improvement and safety projects would not be possible without the implementation of various project management tools.
The civil sector of the construction industry is the primary agent responsible for maintaining all public infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, water and sanitation systems, and pedestrian a vehicle safety devices. Assuming this responsibility involves implementing various maintenance and construction projects, each one with a different objective and scope of work. A project recently completed by the capital improvement projects (CIP) team involved both road-widening and drainage components. The project had a 24 month lifecycle, with 12 of those months used for securing funding and clearing the right-of-way for construction. The scale of this project warranted a great number of resources beyond financial and accounting. One such resource needed was consultants with design experience whom had accomplished project of the same magnitude and in a similar fashion. Additional resources consisted of individuals with exceptional interpersonal and communication skills, as well as, organization, design[s] compilation, and documentation. A number of different project management tools were used to coordinate these efforts and efficiently consume these resources.
The work authorization system was an invaluable asset of this project. The work authorization system was the instrument used by the project manager to account for project-specific work. Because there are always projects in various stages of a lifecycle that need attention, it is important to know how much time each project has consumed. In addition, work authorization allows the project manager to assess what efforts are needed for a specific phase of the project and determine if a member with a particular skillset can be added or reassigned to another project. Essentially, this tool allows the project manager to authorize the cash expenditures associated with that work, while tracking the capital budget for that fiscal year. “This process would be appropriate to define (or bound) the authorized or approved scope, schedule, and cost for the project. On most government projects, which are primarily funding limited, this work authorization process is the current year (or detailed) work planning process intended to match the approved project work to the fiscal year funding plan.” (Douglas, 2000)
Project status reports were vital to the cohesiveness of varying tasks towards objectives. The status reports for this particular project were formally submitted on a weekly basis, and involved meeting with all team members to discuss the previous week’s developments. The purpose of these progress meetings was to discuss any issues that may impact the project’s budget or its schedule. During these meetings the project manager reviews the reports and inquires on any events that “standout”. In addition, all pertinent information becomes available during these meetings, which allowed for a more collaborative and cooperative task engagement. Without this progress-tracking instrument, the progress status of the project’s varying phases would be difficult to assess and account for.
The implementation of integrated manage tools has become a contributing factor of the capital improvement projects successes. Work authorization and scheduling systems provide the means to assess and control resources more efficiently, and the decision making process adopted by the CIP has dramatically minimized the costs associated with erroneous and/or delayed decisions. The use of these tools allowed for the high-profile road-widening and drainage project’s success, and continues to be an invaluable asset towards the efficient completion of subsequent projects. The project management plan is the method that establishes a link between efforts and outputs. Barkley (2006) “The project management plan defines how the project is executed, monitored, controlled, and closed” The plans components include people, namely the roles the individuals will play and the responsibilities assigned to them.
The plan also requires inputs in the form of technology and financing that will aid in bringing the project-objectives to fruition. In addition to these components, an effective project management plan will include accurate and frequent communications. The essence of a good project management plan (PMP), PSMJ contends, is to keep it brief (you can do that simply by making reference to other documents instead of incorporating them), to the point, well-indexed, and not cluttered with text-instead, use tables and figures to illustrate your points. Distributed and regularly updated, the plan becomes a reference for the client; the team members; and principals, top managers, and administrators of your firm. (PMP, 2004) These items are the specific components needed to exact a project management plan.
Segmenting the project into specific milestones is an important condition needed to monitor progress, and more importantly weigh all inputs against the objectives met. Segmenting affords a more accurate means of measuring current progress (current progress – resources consumed) and make adjustments to meet the anticipated results outlined in the projects charter. Without this segmentation comparing progress to costs would not be possible until the project’s completion, at which point the desired outcome would be less than the resources allocated for its creation. In conclusion, the formal role of a project manager is not difficult to grasp. However, the manner in which an effective project manager exacts this function can be difficult to understand. This complexity is the consequence of integrating people, systems, and resources into a harmonious and unique sequence of events that culminate to achieve an objective. The quantifiable and qualitative paradigms of this discipline can be learned in any academic institution. However, the effective application of these principles is inherent to an individual’s character.
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