Project management discipline, life-cycle, classification, culture, change, personality
This paper starts out by introducing project management than moving on to history after that to certain ways project management is implemented. Project management discipline, life-cycle, classification, culture, change, project managers personality and time estimates is also discussed. This paper is a general overview of what project management is and on what type of project manager is needed. This paper does not go into great detail to any one topic that is discussed but gives a general view on the topic. In the end some recommendation are listed to improve project management.
Just about everyone that has anything to do with business has heard the words project management. Even though many have heard of project management they may not know what goes along with it. They may not have even heard of anything like a project life-cycle. But this should change because project management is very important in just about every business. Everyone should take some time to learn about project management. This might be because project management has a very short history but since it was started it spread fast. In the past project management was only being used in construction and engineering. Today it is used not only in those fields but also in education, IT, media, health care, and surgery. Even though there is a large amount of employees who work in project management very little attention is paid to working according to project management principles. This is usually because project management has not been taken seriously by these employees or they don't know enough about it. Project management has evolved from such things as self managing work teams and interest in knowledge workers. Increasingly, the field of project management has promoted itself as a universal and politically – neutral tool kit of techniques appropriate for any type of activity in any sector, enabling the tight control of discontinuous work processes, with particular potential for the control of expert labor (Hodgson, 2002, p. 804). Project management is the way of the future that every organization should take seriously.
Project Management History. The first time project management received and attention was in the 1950s. Although, it was not used by too many organizations in the 1950s, growth came in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In brief, project management promises a system which can deliver “one-off” undertakings “on time, to budget, within scope”, through the planning and control of variables including resources, cost, productivity, schedule, risk, and quality (Hodgson, 2002, p. 807). In the 1950s the US defense and aeronautics industries started to develop project management techniques. Project management was in the Apollo Space Program, the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb, and defense programs in the cold war. The government than introduced project management to the private sector which became very popular. The past decade was a renaissance for project management. Project management has grown not only because project management techniques work but also because of forceful marketing efforts, support and legitimation of academia, government, and media. Project management has spread to almost every country where strategies are modeled by more established professions. The growth in popularity is evidenced by the mushrooming membership of professional associations: the US-based Project Management Institute (PMI), for example, reporting an increase in membership from 8,817 in 1992 to over 60,000 by 2000 ( Hodgson, 2002, p. 807). Project management is now used to manage projects that reach into millions of dollars. The size of the project is always defined in terms of such variables as the scale of investments, the number of project staff, the social impact of the project, and the complexity of the project (Li, 2009, p. 99). For example, certain mega projects or in other words infrastructure projects reach 500 million dollars. All information systems and information technology projects put toghether reach 255 billion dollars annually. Even though project management is already used by a large number of people and for very expensive projects, project management still has room for growth. One potential area for growth is to offer dedicated university classes in the USA and Europe. It also has room for growth in governments, most governments support project management but they don't make it a mandatory skill for employees. Elimination of conflicting view on project management would definitely spur more growth. More on conflicts will be discussed below. There are also many other problems some that grab everyone’s attention. In January 2000, the Financial Times reported, for example, on the “fiasco” of the major government IT projects in the U.K. “stemming from basic project errors” that “highlighted the need for greater professionalism in project management, the government's track record in project management has been, to say the least, poor” (Cicmil, 2006, p. 114).
Project Management Discipline. The development of project management into a profession depends to a large degree on the representation of project management knowledge as an objective, coherent, self-evident and effective discipline (Hodgson, 2002, p. 809). Currently project management throughout the world is mostly standardized with ontology and terminology. It was not until the mid-to-late 1980s that a standard model of practicing Project Management started to take shape. But there are still differences, for example, the US based Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Association of Project Managers (APM) in the UK and elsewhere differ in the definition of the “Body of Knowledge” but have a very similar knowledge of techniques and management skills. Body of Knowledge is a set of processes and knowledge accepted as best practice in project management. Knowledge of techniques are things like the project life-cycle, budgeting, and scheduling, while management skills are things like control and co-ordination, and leadership. Currently in IT there are about 1000 different project management models, it would make project management much easier if this was reduced to about ten or even one good model. Because of some of these differences some question remain on how credible and professional project management is. To fix issues like these many believe that project management has more room to develop so more rigorous research is needed. But many argue that project management is not a science and should not expect a “social-scientific Newton”. Project management will never be perfected, there will always be some problems, and there will always be someone challenging a certain portion of it. Those who are waiting for project management to be revolutionized are waiting for a train that will never arrive. One major reason that there are no universal models is because certain academics and consultancies depend on survival instincts in which a slightly different project management structure is made so those models, applications, and services can be marketed and sold. As project management continues to expand throughout the globe this vigorous marketing by academics and consultancies will also strengthen. These slight differences in project management causes any portion of it to criticism. Arguments will surface on who's version is better. These criticisms raise questions on whose version of project management is correct and should be studied. In the past 60 years project management has been promoted by the argument that the world is becoming increasingly uncertain and complex. Despite the proclaimed novelty of the project management approach, most textbooks return to 1916 and Fayol's Elements of Management when attempting to define the responsibilities of the project manager: Planning, Organizing, Commanding, Coordinating and Controlling (Hodgson, 2002, p. 810). Many writers slightly modify this definition or are asking for the definition to be modernized. While other say that project management is like any type of management except that it has a life-cycle and some other rules that need to be followed. Very little deviation from Fayol is evident in IT-based Project Management: for example, the standards of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers state: “software project management is the process of planning, organized, staffing, monitoring, controlling, and leading a software project” (Hodgson, 2002, p. 810).
Control and Project Life-Cycle. Project management controls the conduct of employees when involved in project work. Employee behavior can also be predicted and more easily calculated. It can be calculated by pinpointing what part of the life-cycle is the work on. The project life-cycle or PLC is effectively the cornerstone of project management. Representing a standardized model of the stages of a project said to represent the “natural and pervasive order of thought and action” (Hodgson, 2002, p. 810). Many other writers describe the life-cycle as a project that must go through a project. There are many definitions of the project life-cycle which define a project from a non-project. According to the British Standards Institution (BSI), project management has five basic phases: conception, feasibility, implementation, operation, and termination. Conception is about setting requirements which is the responsibility of the client. This phase is said to be outside of the work done by a project manager. Feasibility is about definition and development. Definition is about breaking up the customers requirements into small project components. Development is about defining how each component will be achieved with what resources and responsibility. The development phase is then described in the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which represents the flow of work throughout the project that also has a guideline for identifying flaws. WBS is used for a timescale, budgeting, manpower planning, and monitoring and evaluation of the project. Some WBS techniques are to use Gantt charts, critical path methods (CPM), program evaluation and review technique (PERT). After the project has been authorized the implementation stage takes over. The implementation stage is about using administrative and technical aspects in starting the project according to what was planned. Project managers implement the plan using techniques such as PERT and WBS so that progress and performance of employees can be judged. Several different types of software has been developed with the most popular being Microsoft Project that are used to monitor projects progress. Microsoft Project was created to automatically request information from team members and than alerts the project manager whether it is late or incomplete. After the implementation phase the operation phase is the initiation or handover of the completed project. The final phase is the termination phase which is ending the project. Many employees working on project teams describe this process as bureaucratic or having lots of unnecessary work. As tasks are broken down and allocated to staff in a quasi-Taylorist fashion, both bureaucratic and technological means of monitoring are used to Augment the individualizing effects of the discipline, frequently at the expense of the autonomy traditionally exercised by the expert / specialist employee (Hodgson, 2002, p. 812). The question that involuntarily comes to mind in the quest for effective project management, is whether the project management “way of doing things” is indeed so significantly different from the conventional (functional) “way of doing things” in an organization, as was alluded to in the introduction (Brown, 2008, p. 93)? Some project managers to skip steps in project management but that is usually done by project managers that have years of experience. This lends weight to research which has pointed to the importance of project management structure as a “social defense” a set of rituals which “allow practitioners to deny their feelings of impotence in the face of daunting technical and political challenges” (Hodgson, 2002, p. 813). Which is why many employees feel anxiety when deviating from the project management structure. Project management structure is especially important in information systems (IS) and information technology (IT). IS and IT projects are some of the most difficult to implement and control. There have been many IS and IT projects that failed so badly that they have been written in the press and are now legends. Early in the 1980s it has been stated, “nearly every software engineering development project is plagued with numerous problems leading to late delivery, cost overruns, and sometimes, unsatisfied customers (Huff, 2008, p. 34). IS projects tend to be very large and technically complicated which causes them to take very long. Researchers have suggested that because of new development technologies, integrated package suites, and exploding technological innovations, information technology departments may interface with as many as 50 to 100 suppliers to meet organizational needs (Martin, 2007, p. 53). Like already mentioned earlier even though it is good to follow project management structure it is not always the best thing to do because during the project things change. This may explain why research suggests that rule breaking may be necessary for success (Pons, 2008, p. 93).
Disciplining Project Managers. Project management is said to be professional only when project management structure is strictly followed. Many project managers follow certain steps which the business does not require but they do it anyways to be professional and to do it properly. For a project manager to be professional they must not only follow proper steps but use other important aspects like following proper terminology. Using proper terminology a project manager shows that they can understand and employ project management which implies a level of knowledge and expertise. It implies that an agent can act and make decisions from a repertoire of possibilities dependent on the individual's perception of what might be an adequate response in a given situation (Andersen, 2009, p. 26). So in order to be recognized by others as a professional a project manager needs to show knowledge of the body of knowledge and able to use project management terminology. Project managers who do not use proper terminology are labeled as lacking expertise and unprofessional. Businesses identify employees that understand project management from the one's that do not by whether the employee uses project management terminology or not. To be successful project managers need other skills like being a great communicator. As one project manager stated: “it is an awful lot about communication, about talking to people, knowing exactly what is going on at any given time, and also relationship-building with the customer (Ong, 2009, p, 162). Different types of communication can be used, for example, face to face meetings held weekly, while email and phone calls daily.
Project Culture. Project management is used to bring people together to achieve certain goals. Many times effective project management fails because the culture does not support it. Since projects are usually temporary a project culture needs to be rapidly formed and shared by the project members. A project culture is a subculture that is within a larger organization culture. An example of an organizational culture can be for example a bureaucratic one that is very stable. While a subculture can be a mission culture that is focused on a specific goal. An example of most project cultures is innovativeness, creativeness, and independency. For a project manager to be effective in building a project culture they must possess high emotional competence. In order to influence and motivate employees project managers must be aware and sensitive to different working styles. Project managers must also know the existing organization culture. Many times a project culture will be completely different from the organizations culture which may bring about some conflict. It is the decision of the project manager whether it is beneficial to create a completely different project culture from the organization culture. For example, if the project team has the “adolescent” value orientations, the role of project manager could be to create a non-conformist, dynamic and innovative culture in the project environment (Ong, 2009, p. 160). Adolescent culture is a culture where employee's behavior can be compared to adolescents where they do not want constraints, discipline, no stress, all they want is to have a good time. In this case changing a culture from an “adolescent” one to a more serious one may bring many benefits to completing the project on time and with success with not too many errors. Once the project manager develops a certain project culture than they should not try too change it too much afterward. Changing project culture can be very difficult because it can change the way work is done and changes the way people think. This in turn can empower employee's to work harder or discourage them.
Project Changes. Business environments are complex which sometimes results in changes and uncertainties. A conventional view on project management labels change as negative but the truth is that change can result in a successful project. According to one project manager, “project management is just a facet of change, and you've got to teach the fundamentals of change management first, so that people understand what project management is all about, project is a special purpose vehicle for delivering change” (Ong, 2009, p. 161). It is much more difficult to manage sociological context changes than economic and technological contexts. Project managers must develop and champion change with certain levels of sensitivity and conscientiousness. Once the change is in place a certain process should be followed to manage the change so the project does not fail. The project manager must decide how fast to manage the change. Sometimes when change is happening too quickly than employee's may be discouraged to continue working on the project. At that point it is the project managers responsibility to get everyone motivated again or come up with a different plan to manage the change.
Project and Project Managers. It has taken many years of research to find factors that has lead to better project performance and success. Project management has a ton of literature that focuses only on performance and success. The universalistic approach which means that all projects are very similar is not a good approach to managing projects. There are all sorts of different projects, every project should be managed differently. Several types of guides provide guidelines for project management using the universalistic approach, it does not even take different management styles into consideration. Not too much research has been done whether a project managers personality fits a specific project. Some project management literature has been written about qualifications of managers and their psychological dynamic. In the last few years lots of attention has been placed into managing different type of projects using different managerial practices. As of yet there has not been any studies that address how a personality of a project manager influences a project performance and success.
Project Classification. The biggest misconception about project management is that all projects are similar so similar tools can be used for every project. This is sometimes called the project-is-a-project-is-a-project syndrome (Dvir, 2006, p. 36). Treating every project the same leads to failure because incorrect project management techniques are used. Every project manager should match a project to a particular organizational theory. Classical contingency theory asserts that different external conditions may require different organizational characteristics; organizational effectiveness is contingent upon the congruence or “goodness of fit” between structural and environmental variables (Dvir, 2006, p. 37). The two major organization theories are mechanic and organic. A mechanic organization has many authority levels, maintains minimal levels of communication, is also formal, centralized, specialized and bureaucratic. While an organic organization has only a few authority levels, has extensive levels of communication, is also informal and decentralized, dealing with complex and uncertain environments is best dealt by an organic organization while simple, stable, and more certain environments is best dealt by a mechanistic organization. Organizations that perform routine tasks are different from organizations that perform innovative tasks. It is not always so simple to match a project to the type of organization because many projects are temporary organizations within an organization and may have a much different structure than the mother organization. To categorize a project it must be temporary, be a part of the organization and its culture, and it must be a new task that has not even been done before. The project must also be context-free and independent of any industry, technology, or organization. There have been some recent studies that deal with management of innovation and uncertainty but it had very little impact on the literature of project management. Another dimension of project management is about complexity and time. Two major issues must be addressed when dealing with time. First issue is that the project is temporary so a time limitation must exist. Second issue with time is that everything needs to be done very quickly resulting in shortened product life cycles and high speed decision making. The three biggest dimensions to project management are uncertainty, complexity, and pace. Different types of project differ in the level of uncertainty, uncertainty determines, among other things, the length and timing of front-to-end activities, how well and how fast one can define and finalize product requirements and design, the degree of detail and extent of planning accuracy, and the level of contingency resources (Dvir, 2006, p. 37). Complexity determines the process, organization, and formality. Project complexity depends on product scope, number and variety of elements, and the interconnection among them (Dvir, 2006, p. 38). Other time project complexity depends on the size of the project. Project size may be based on the dollar value of the project, the number of people on the project team or the number of components comprising the final system (Martin, 2007, p. 53). Pace is the third and final dimension which is about urgency and importance of time constraints. The same goal with different time constraints may require different project structures and different project attention (Div, 2006, p. 38). After many studies were made on these three studies a fourth dimension emerged. This new dimension is novelty which defines how the new product is to the users that will be using it. The four dimensions give us the NCTP model which help project managers select their project management style.
Project Managers' Personality and Skills. There is such a thing as a person-organization fit theory which means that the organization satisfies individuals' preferences, needs, and desire. Basically it means that a persons characteristics fit the job requirements perfectly. People tend to pick an organization that fits their personality. That means that according to the person-organization fit theory a project manager will pick a project that fits their personality. Project managers will also do a better job in those types of projects. This is where the NCTP model comes into use. The novelty component measures openness to experiences, a person who is open to experiences is said to be creative, original, curious, artistic, and has broad interests. The pace component measures Type A behavior. Type A behavior is driven by punctuality, this is the person that is found honking in traffic. The uncertainty component measures risk-taking tendency. The complexity component measures the inventor, investigative, and enterprising personality types. There are also certain skills that project managers need. Project management skills can be divided into hard skills (planning, monitoring, coordinating) and soft skills (leading, controlling, resolving conflict, team building) (Martin, 2007, 53). Certain phases of a project will require different skills than another phase which project managers should be aware to keep everyone in optimal working conditions.
Project Success. Most projects focus on better results such as bigger profits or improved market position. Even though theses results are mostly business focused project managers don't usually focus on the business aspect when on a project. Project managers are operational and focus on just getting the job done. Project management literature builds mostly the operational mindset, focusing heavily on time, budget, and performance as project success. Focusing only on the operation side makes project management incomplete because the project may not meet customer needs and requirements. In the end the project may be a failure because the product fails. Many studies want to add new elements in defining project success, these new elements are client satisfaction and customer welfare. Project success also depends on the person because project success to one person does not mean project success to another. For example, one manager will view project success if the stock price will go up while another in technical competence. Certain project managers identify with certain criteria to call a project success. For example, there is the seven main criteria used to measure project success, amount them, technical performance, efficiency of execution, managerial and organizational implications (including customer satisfaction), personal growth, and manufacture's ability and business performance (Dvir, 2006, p. 39).
Project Estimates. Hundreds of articles have been written describing why projects fail in the traditional project management literature: lack of leadership, low user involvement, poor competencies or skills, poor stakeholder communication and management, lack of top management support, poor requirements definition, etc (Blackstone, 2009, p. 7030). What most project managers do not realize is that there are more fundamental issues to project management time failures. Project estimates are not estimated correctly because they are subjective estimates. Tasks are estimates based on subjective estimates of the probabilities associated with factors that might delay the task and resources accountable for completing the task in that time (Blackstone, 2009, p. 7030). One of the biggest problems of not finishing the project on time is the student syndrome. The student syndrome is putting off till the last minute. Putting something of till the last minute removes the extra time buffer for emergencies or extra tasks and because of this there is a 50% less chance of finishing a project on time. The second problem of not finishing the project on time is Parkinson's law. An example of Parkinson's law is when a worker starts working right away on the project but the worker thinks that there is more than enough time to finish and works slowly to look busy or multitasks doing other work till the project is due. The problem here is that if the worker runs into a problem late in the schedule like being sick or a computer problem than the project will not be finished on time, this also reduces the chance of finishing a project on time by 50%. A project has even a less chance of finishing on time if, for example, three employees need to finish a task before the fourth person starts. According to the student syndrome and Parkinson's law each of the first three employee's has a 50% chance of finishing, which when computed results in 12.5% chance for the fourth person to start on the date the fourth task was supposed to be started.
Taken together, project management is the way of the future that every organization should take seriously. Project management popularity is growing daily not just in the United States but all over the world. Some still do not take project management seriously, some question it, while other just don't want to waste time learning it. Project management still has much room for improvement. The biggest improvement would be that everyone gets together and comes up with only a couple different versions of project management. It is not beneficial to have hundreds of different kinds of versions. There should be no more than 40 different versions. It is understandable that a different kind of version of project management is needed for a different country. That is because things are done differently over there. Doing business internationally would be easier if that was not the case. But here in the United States if there is a different version is because its a different kind of project. For example, it could be an IS or a mega-project that requires different kind of skills. The only way this would happen is if everyone would turn to using only one type of version or if the government stepped in to set up regulations. But then there is the negative side of this where if the government stepped in it would cause less innovation. Another area of research that is needed would be when it is appropriate to step away from the structure of project management. Since, as shown its not always beneficial to follow all the processes in project management. Employee's should not be afraid to do something a little different if that is required. One last think that really needs improvement is to come up with a modern definition of project management. The way business has done has changed in the last sixty years so the definition should be updated also. If project management does not become more standardized than at least the definition should be standardized. The future will bring many new improvements especially that now project management is used by so many people. We might find that economic considerations (great benefits), societal trends (everybody is talking about it), and new ideas (results from research projects and new understanding of what matters) again are combined to drive project management improvement efforts (Erling, 2009, p. 27). No matter which way project management takes project management is here to stay.
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