Category: Management

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A project is defined as the set of the initial resources and goals to achieve. The middle part is about the project preparation, planning, implementation, and control. Thus, the main prerequisite for the project’s success is the commitment of the managers. It is important, because the initial stages of project, such as preparation and planning are the most difficult in terms of maintaining the movement towards the final destination (goals). Without an appropriate planning, a project has very slim chances to be successfully implemented.

Adequate Control

However, even a perfect plan is not possible to realize without an adequate control. It is the case, when the framework for project control is needed. There is a globally accepted project management (PM) framework, called project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) (PMI, 2008). This PM framework proposes 42 management processes that are divided into nine knowledge areas, grouped into five project phases. Such division allows controlling the project in full, because the relationships between the elements are such that if one element changes somehow, it affects at least one another element in the framework.

The above mentioned knowledge areas cover the entire process of project control. They are as follows: project integration management, project scope management, project time management, project quality management, project human resource (HR) management, project communications management, project risk management, and project procurement management (PMI, 2008). A typical project usually includes such phases as initiation, planning, executing, management and control, and closing. These stages are controlled according to the precise control of the management processes that are covered by the above described knowledge areas. In fact, PMBOK provides managers with comprehensive framework for project control from the initiation to closing stage (Thomas et al., 2008; PMI, 2008)

It is necessary to note that PMBOK gives an opportunity to control all elements of the project, except HR management. People play a more significant role in this process than any other factors, so HR controls are performed via such distinct from the framework operations as personnel selection, special event for team building, particular programs for motivation, performance appraisal, etc. (Thamhain, 2007; Thamhain, 2010; Thomas et al., 2008). Such approach to the personnel control provides managers with more profound understanding of how to create and control efficient units and departments (Chapman, 2001; Bradshaw, 2008).

There is an alternative to this framework, developed by Bradshaw (2008). His framework focuses on the project control execution and can be logically divided into six main stages: Organizational Development, Projects Controls Development, Performance Measurement, Analysis and Collective Actions, Project Updates and Reviews, and Acknowledge Success. Figure 1 (Bradshaw, 2008) depicts this process in form of a pyramid:

Technology is nothing without its appropriate application by people. The same principle works in the technology-intensive environments. Bradshaw (2008) defines people as the most critical aspect of PM. He also adds that this is the main channel through which work controls are initiated, implemented, and managed. On Figure 1, it can be seen that Bradshaw considers people as the main driving force for project execution. Especially, if one looks at the sixth stage of his model – it is reserved for celebration project’s successful accomplishments (Bradshaw, 2008).

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It is clear that project team members should be more than just good workers, if it is about project initiation, development, and implementation. These people should have commitment to the project, profound understanding of the targeted areas, excellent skills, and ethical and cultural values that correspond with such within organization. Modern personnel are far more advanced than they were before thanks to the information technologies that facilitate the process of self-improvement and professional development (Thamhain, 2007; Thamhain, 2010; Thomas et al., 2008).

The Task of Managers

The task of managers in terms of control is to create and control the efforts of teams in order to achieve the maximum level of the efficiency. It is a rather difficult challenge in the contemporary business world. Employees are very ambitious these days, and it is very important to apply the proper managerial techniques and methods to make a professional team from a group of professionals. The major task of any manager is the control of the situation, which means total elimination of any disagreements and conflicts on the inter-departmental and internal (within a team) levels (Lussier, 2008; Thomas et al., 2008; Bradshaw, 2008).

Creating teams is only the first step in managerial work. Good professional and interpersonal climate must be created and maintained by a manager, as well. Otherwise, project planning and implementation could take far more time than necessary and could lead to the inappropriate consequences (RandomCrates, 2009; Lussier, 2008). Therefore, managers must coach and support their team and provide the same level of assistance and motivation for each member of a team. There are three main methods of control that correspond to different areas of the team management. They are as follows: mentoring, empowerment, and motivation (Thomas et al., 2008; Bradshaw, 2008).

Mentoring allows strengthening organizational commitment, reducing turnover, etc. Empowerment is applied to encourage and stimulate the decision-making in individuals in order to develop leadership qualities and skills within teams. Motivation is used as the most influential technique that improves and keeps the commitment to project goals on a high level. In fact, motivation is the main control tool for any manager, because it allows influencing the efficiency of work with indirect methods (RandomCrates, 2009). There are many motivators, but the main are as follows: performance recognition and reward, comfortable work environment, challenges in the work process, the opportunities for the further professional development, the above-mentioned involvement in decision-making, etc.

Many different motivational theories employ motivational concepts are presented in. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is probably the most visual theory that can help managers to understand and control the situation within teams, as presented on Figure 2 (RandomCrates, 2009):

As it usually happens within team projects, the conflicts and differences emerge constantly. It is the inevitable part of the working process. Managers should control this part of team cooperation. In order to solve such issues as anxieties, threats, conflicts, interpersonal dislike, a manager must be a well-trained professional in many areas, including interpersonal, open communication, conflict management, observations, conversations, etc. (Chapman, 2001; Thomas, 2008).

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Modern workers, as it was already mentioned, are self-directed and like challenges. Such attitude and behavior is understandable these days, since only the most skillful, experienced, and advanced employees can move up the career ladder. However, it is the managerial job to create opportunities for further professional growth, guide in overcoming the difficulties, and control the process. Managers should also understand the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of their employees in order to provide them with such work assignments that fit their abilities and promote creativity, innovation, and critical thinking (Chapman, 2001; Thomas, 2008).

All the above discussed managerial activities are connected with the project initiation, development, and implementation stages in terms of personnel related aspects. However, there is another very important stage of the project planning. Managers must know how to reward employees for the excellent performance and successful work (Thomas, 2008).

Performance appraisal is very important. Appropriate acknowledgement of work results develops accountability, commitment, self-direction, and control within individuals and teams. In addition, measurement of performance allows identifying any deviations from the expected performance norms in both positive and negative sides (Yeuk-Mui, 2001). Therefore, managers can either eliminate the deficits of working process in order to increase the efficiency or use the successful experience and findings in future projects. 

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