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Project Management

Building The Foundation/The Project Management Journey

The Project Management Journey

Let’s start with a definition of a project and then we'll take a high-level look at some of the processes and plans we will build throughout and how we'll benefit from using solid project management techniques when managing our next project. We'll also cover organizational foundations before moving on to the project processes themselves. Here we go.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

The process of fulfilling the requirements of the project to the customer's satisfaction through planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling project results.

Projects set out to produce a unique product or service that hasn't been produced before. They have a limited time frame and are temporary in nature. This means that projects have a definite beginning and ending. You can determine that a project is complete by comparing it to the objectives and deliverables stated in the project plan.

Everyday work is ongoing. Production processes are an example of ongoing operations. Maybe you love riding a bike on a beach side in the dusk with a cool breeze and with an orange background in the sky. Producing these bikes is an example of ongoing operations. The company knows how many bikes to produce, what colors they should be, how many go in a month, and so on. Every day hundreds of thousands of those bikes come on the roads from showrooms. But the production of these bikes is not a project.

Now let's say that the management team has decided that it's time to introduce a new line of bikes. You've been tasked with producing the new technology and shape. You assemble a research team to come up with a new bike formula. The marketing team gathers some data, which shows that the new bike has real potential with the consumers. The bike is produced according to plan, monitored for adherence to the original formula and design, and shipped to the stores. Is this a project or ongoing operations?

The answer is, this is a project even though bike manufacturing is something the company does every day. The production of bikes is considered an ongoing operation. The new bike, however, is a unique product because the company has never produced this flavor and design of bike. Remember that projects are originated to bring about a product or service that hasn't existed before. The new bike project was kicked off, carried out, monitored, and then ended when all the requirements were met. Bike production didn't stop there though. At the end of this project the production of the bike was turned over to ongoing operations and absorbed into the everyday work of the company. The project ended in this case by being assimilated into the ongoing operations of the company. The below table will give a brief about Project versus Ongoing Operations

Table Project versus ongoing operations

Many project managers, including myself, collapse the Executing and Controlling phases into one process. Some projects lend themselves well to this approach. My projects are information technology–based and usually involve some type of new programming and/or the installation of hardware and such. Combining Executing and Controlling makes a lot of sense with this type of project because you need to test and control outcomes as you go. Other projects or industries may not lend themselves well to this structure. Be aware that these processes are not set in stone, nor are the templates you'll come across throughout the book. Use good judgment to decide what's appropriate for your project. If you're in doubt, it's better to err on the side of too much planning and monitoring throughout the project than too little.

Where Are We Going?

When you start out on a journey, it helps to have the destination in mind. We've embarked on a project management discovery journey, so I'd like to start out by describing where we'll be when we've finished.

The end of the project is the time to reflect on the processes used to complete the activities, to determine whether the customer is satisfied with the product the project set out to produce, and to document the lessons learned throughout the course of the project (among other things). You will be able to use this book to guide you from start to finish through your next small or medium-sized project so that you can easily assess those factors not only at the end of the project but as you progress through the project as well. (I consider large projects to be along the lines of building rocket ships, constructing major highways, or writing the latest, greatest software program that will automatically do your grocery shopping and monitor your golf swing all at the same time.) If you're just starting out in project management, you probably aren't heading up a large-scale project. But rest assured that all those small and medium-sized projects will teach you a great deal about project management and will start you well on the way to bigger and better opportunities as your experience grows.

Customer

The end user or recipient of the product or service of the project. Customers may be internal or external to the organization.

Note: When you're just starting out, don't discount the experience you'll gain by working on small projects. Large projects are really a lot of smaller projects all lumped into one. The stepping-stones to large project work are created by a history of success with small and medium-sized projects.

Included in this and each subsequent chapter you'll find discussions of the process at hand, examples so that you can apply what you're learning, and templates that you can use or modify to complete your project documentation. Now let's take a high-level look at a completed project.

A Bird's-Eye View

Our first example of a project is this book you're holding. You haven't yet read the entire book (unless of course this is your second time through). No doubt you're asking yourself, "Will this book give me the information I'm looking for?" or perhaps, "Will I be able to run my next project more efficiently as a result of reading this book?" Of course, I think the answer to both of these questions is "yes," but you don't know that yet. After you've finished the book, you'll know the answers to these questions and be able to reflect and discover that you did learn some new things and your project management tool bag is much better equipped for your next project. In other words, you've satisfied your curiosity and increased your knowledge of project management.

Projects work the same way. As the project manager, your primary concern throughout the project and particularly at the end of the project is, "Did I meet the customer's requirements to their satisfaction?" If you've followed the appropriate project management processes correctly, you'll know the answer to this question long before the project comes to an end. At the end of the project you'll also document the things you've learned for use in future projects, which will help you to improve the process next time around.

Projects come about as a result of a need, and that need relates to the customer's expectations concerning the end result. But how do we get there? How do we know the customer is going to be satisfied?

Table Checklist of project processes

Here is the check list that outlines the project processes

 This list may look huge but by end of this subject you will have a better underdstanding of the importance of each of these elements and why you need to incorporate them into your next project.

Know the Structure of Your Organization

It's important for project managers to understand the kind of organization they work in because each structure has its own pluses and pitfalls. Organizations and their cultures are as unique as the projects they carry out. Functional organizations are the most traditional company structure. However, there can be deep layers of bureaucracy in this type of culture, and project managers may find themselves having little to no authority to make work assignments or complete the tasks needed to finish the project. Projectized organizations are structured with a project-oriented focus but also have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Matrix organizations are yet another type of structure that mixes some of the features of the functional organization with the projectized organization. Let's take a further look at each of these organizational structures.

Functional Organizations

Functional organizations are structured in a way that groups similar work operations together into departments. For example, there's an accounting department, staffed with folks who know how to count the money and keep track of expenditures and such, maybe a human resources department, an information technology department, and so on in this type of organization. The departments themselves are organized around similar work processes, and the employees who work in these departments have similar skill sets, albeit ranging from beginners in the field to seasoned experts.

 functional organizations

A traditional organizational structure that is hierarchical in nature. Employees report to one manager who reports to a higher level manager.Chances are you work for a person, known as the boss, who has some level of authority over your work assignments. Chances are your boss works for a boss who works for the big boss. This is an example of a functional organization. All the employees report up through their own departments to bosses who report to the big cheese at the top. Most organizations are structured this way; it's the most common form of organizational structure.

Project managers who work in functional organizations usually have other responsibilities besides the project at hand. When the manager of human resources receives approval to undertake a project implementing an automated leave request system, she'll not only have to manage the project but will also continue to manage the duties of her regular position. This makes the project management tasks easier since she's the one who assigns the work to her staff, but her job responsibilities become more complicated since she's juggling functional duties and project management duties. Here is a typical organizational chart for a functional organization.

Practicing

If you find yourself working as a contract project manager in this type of organization, be aware that corporate culture may dictate strict adherence to the chain of command. This means you must speak with the functional managers directly and should not go over their heads for answers unless they instruct you to do so. And rather than taking the initiative and rallying the employees in the department around the project, you'll likely need to get permission from their boss before you speak to them.

Advantages of a functional organization include:

Clear chain of command: Employees have one supervisor and clearly understand the lines of authority.

Cohesive team: Team members know one another because they work in the same department.Since their skills and talents are known,task assignment is easier.

Separation of functions: This setup allows team members to fine-tune specific skills and eventually become experts.

Disadvantages of a functional organization include:

Project managers are typically functional managers also: This arrangement tends to pull a manager in several directions and can cause projects to suffer from lack of attention.

Layers of bureaucracy: This structure slows down the project progress because of the time it takes to get approval or make decisions.

Competition for resources: When multiple priorities and projects are undertaken, the department can become stretched thin under the load, which can adversely affect all the work of the department.

Projectized Organizations

Projectized organizations are structured just the opposite of functional organizations. If you're a project manager in this type of organization, you probably report directly to a vice president of project managers or perhaps to the CEO.

projectized organizations

Projectized organizations focus on the project itself, not the work of the functional department. Project managers have the most authority in this type of structure, and other functions, such as accounting or human resources, may report to the project manager.

In this type of environment, the project manager has full authority over the project, and supporting functions like accounting and human resources report to the project manager instead of a functional manager in that area of expertise. Organizational structures like this focus on projects as their top priority. As a result, project managers have the authority to form project teams, assign resources, and focus on the work of the project. All the team members assigned to the project report directly to the project manager, and their sole responsibility involves project-specific activities. At the conclusion of the project, team members are assigned to new projects or other assignments.

Project teams are typically collocated in a projectized environment. This facilitates communication and decision-making processes because everyone works together and reports to the same project manager.

collocated

Project team members are physically located together at the same site.

Projectized structures can exist within an otherwise functional organization. Perhaps the company is undertaking a mission-critical project and needs a dedicated team of folks to work on nothing but that project. A project manager is appointed who reports directly to an executive manager, the team is chosen and assigned, and off you go with a projectized team structure within the functional organization.On the top of the next page is a typical org chart for a projectized organization.

Advantages of a projectized organization include:

Project manager has ultimate authority: Team members have one boss and clearly understand the lines of authority. Teams are typically collocated.

Project manager is the primary decision maker: This makes communication, problem resolution, and priority setting clear-cut. The buck stops here.

Focus of the organization is project work: Resources are focused on the projects and the work of the project. Loyalties are formed to the project.

Disadvantages of a projectized organization include:

Reassignment of team members: When the work of the project is complete, team members need to find new assignments. There may not be another project available to the team members right away.

Idle time: Team members with highly specialized skills may be required only at certain times or for specific activities on the project. What they do with their time otherwise is a tough issue to resolve in this type of organization.

Competition: Project managers compete against each other for the best resources available within the organization when forming their teams and acquiring materials. This could have a negative affect on the external customer who is unfortunate enough to have the project manager who drew all the short straws for their project.

Matrix Organizations

An organizational structure where employees report to multiple managers including one functional manager and at least one project manager.

Note:The biggest disadvantage of this type of structure is that project team members report to more than one manager.I don't know about you, but having one boss is difficult enough, let alone two or three.(Sorry, boss!)

The idea here is that project team members are assigned to the project and thus report to the project manager for all project activities. They may still have duties to fulfill back at their old functional job and thus report to their functional manager regarding those duties. Let me give you an example. Suppose your project is to install a new piece of equipment in the remittance processing area (they're the folks who take your money and credit your account for making the payment). This project cuts across the lines of several departments: remittance processing, information technology, customer service, and accounting. In order to accomplish this project, team members from each of these functional areas are assigned to the project. Let's say you're the project manager and must make sure all the team members focus on this project to meet the implementation deadline. However, Sara in accounting really doesn't want to work on this project and has a particular loyalty to her functional manager. She spends most of her time on her functional duties, claiming priority issues or emergencies and never seems to get her project activities completed on time. I think you're getting the picture.

Organizations operating under a matrix structure that place a strong emphasis on project work can eliminate the problem discussed in the preceding paragraph. When the emphasis is on project work, team members are relieved of their old functional duties during the course of the project. Functional managers are responsible for collecting time reports and monitoring the low-level administrative type work of their team members. However, project assignments come from the project manager. At review time, the project manager will deliver an evaluation of project team members to their respective functional managers. This becomes input into the employee's annual review. Functional managers are responsible for holding formal reviews and rating their employees.

Project managers working in this environment should be certain to work closely with the functional managers when preparing project plans, setting schedules, and determining the staff members needed for specific activities. If you don't work closely with the functional manager, or are lacking in negotiating skills, you may mysteriously find that the resources you need are never available when you need them.

When the functional department managers have good working relationships with the project managers and the company culture is focused more on the work of the project than on departmental work, this structure can work well. A project-focused matrix organization is known as a strong matrix organization. Project managers usually have more authority in a strong matrix structure than the functional department managers, and that makes it easier to settle disputes, assign resources, and focus on the work of the project. Here is a typical org chart for a matrix organization.

Advantages of a strong matrix organization include:

Focus of the organization is project work: Resources are focused on the work of the project.

Specialty skills can flourish: Employees with specialized skills are able to use these skills across the organization in various projects.

Opportunities for growth: Employees just starting out their careers are exposed to various departments within the organization, which isn't as easy to do in a functional organization. They become well rounded in their perspectives and have a better understanding of how the organization operates.

Disadvantages of a strong matrix organization include:

More than one boss: Team members report to more than one manager, which can lead to conflicts or delayed project activities down the road if they feel a strong loyalty to one manager.

Confusing duties: Team members may be easily confused about their work priorities if the project managers and functional managers are not working together well.

Conflicts between managers: Struggles over resources and priorities can affect the relationships between project managers and functional managers,thereby jeopardizing the project. If the managers have a particular dislike for one other, things can get very interesting.

As a project manager,it's important for you to understand the kind of organization, or project reporting structure, you're working under. Knowing the structure will help you understand your level of authority and why it's harder to get things done in certain organizations. Just being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each will help you to navigate through some of the bumps in the road you'll inevitably encounter.

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