THE PROJECT MANAGER
Skills needed in a Project Manager
Functional Manager versus Project Managers
Selecting the Project Manager
Location, reporting and salary of the Project Manager
Duties and job description of Project Managers
Next generation Project Managers
6.1 Skill Requirements for Project Managers:
Projects are often complex and multifaceted. Managing these
projects represents a challenge,
requiring skills in team building, leadership, conflict
resolution, technical expertise, planning,
organization, entrepreneurship, administration, management
support, and the allocation of
This section examines these skills relative to Project
Management effectiveness. A key factor to
good project performance is the Project Manager's ability to
integrate personnel from many
disciplines into an effective work team. To get results, the
Project Manager must relate to:
- The people to be managed
- The task to be done
- The tools available
- The organizational structure
- The organizational environment, including the customer
All work factors are interrelated and operate under the limited
control of the Project Manager.
With an understanding of the interaction of corporate
organization and behavior elements, the
manager can build an environment conducive to the working team's
The internal and external forces that impinge on the
organization of the project must be
reconciled to mutual goals. Thus, the Project Manager must be,
both socially and technically
aware to understand how the organization functions and how these
functions will affect the
Project organization of the particular job to be done. In
addition, the Project Manager must
understand the culture and value system of the organization he
is working with. Research and
experience show that effective Project Management performance is
directly related to the level
of proficiency at which these skills are mastered.
Ten specific skills are identified (in no particular order) and
discussed in this section:
- Team building
- Conflict resolution
- Technical expertise
- Management support
It is important that the personal management traits underlying
these skills operate to form a
homogeneous management style. The right mixture of skill levels
depends on the project task,
the techniques employed, the people assigned, and the
organizational structure. To be effective,
Project Managers must consider all facets of getting the job
done. Their management style must
facilitate the integration of multidisciplinary project
resources for synergistic operations. The
days of the manager who gets by with technical expertise alone
or pure administrative skills are
gone. The ten specific skills required in a good Project Manager
can be discussed as follows:
1. Team Building Skills:
Building the project team is one of the prime responsibilities
of the Project Manager.
Team building involves a whole spectrum of management skills
required to identify,
commit, and integrate the various task groups from the
organization into a single Project Management system.
To be effective, the Project Manager must provide an atmosphere
teamwork. He must nurture a climate with the following
committed to the project
interpersonal relations and team spirit
expertise and resources
goals and project objectives
supportive top management
communication among team members and support organizations
A low degree of
detrimental interpersonal and inter-group conflict
Three major considerations are involved in all of the above
factors aimed towards
integration of people from many disciplines into an effective
a) Effective communication
b) Sincere interest in the professional growth of team members
c) Commitment to the project
2. Leadership Skills:
An absolutely essential prerequisite for project success is the
Project Manager's ability
to lead the team within a relatively unstructured environment.
It involves dealing
effectively with managers and supporting personnel across
functional lines with little or
no formal authority. It also involves information processing
skills, the ability to collect
and filter relevant data valid for decision making in a dynamic
environment. It involves
the ability to integrate individual demands, requirements, and
limitations into decisions
that benefit overall project performance. It further involves
the Project Manager's ability
to resolve inter-group conflicts that is an important factor in
Perhaps more than in any other position below the general
manager's level, quality
leadership depends heavily on the Project Manager's personal
experience and credibility
within the organization. An effective management style might be
characterized this way:
leadership and direction
the integration of new members into the team
handle interpersonal conflict
plan and elicit commitments
the team to higher management
balance technical solutions against economic and human factors
The personal traits desirable and supportive of the above skills
3. Conflict Resolution Skills:
Conflict is fundamental to complex task management. It is often
determined by the
interplay of the Project organization and the larger host
organization and its
Understanding the determinants of conflicts is important to the
ability to deal with conflicts effectively. When conflict
becomes dysfunctional, it often
results in poor project decision making, lengthy delays over
issues, and a disruption of
the team's efforts, all negative influences to project
performance. However, conflict can
be beneficial when it produces involvement and new information
and enhances the
A number of suggestions have been derived from various research
studies aimed at
increasing the Project Manager's ability to resolve conflict and
thus, improve overall
Project managers must:
interaction of the organizational and behavioral elements in order to
build an environment conducive to their team's motivational
needs. This will
enhance active participation and minimize unproductive conflict.
effectively with all organizational levels regarding both project
objectives and decisions. Regularly scheduled status review
meetings can be an
important communication vehicle.
• Recognize the
determinants of conflict and their timing in the project life cycle.
Effective project planning, contingency planning, securing of
involving top management can help to avoid or minimize many
conflicts before they
impede project performance.
The value of the conflict produced depends on the ability of the
Project Manager to
promote beneficial conflict while minimizing its potential
hazardous consequences. The
accomplished manager needs a "sixth sense" to indicate when
conflict is desirable, what
kind of conflict will be useful, and how much conflict is
optimal for a given situation.
In the final analysis, he has the sole responsibility for his
Project and how conflict will
contribute to its success or failure.
4. Technical Skills:
The Project Manager rarely has all the technical,
administrative, and marketing
expertise needed to direct the Project single-handedly. Nor is
it necessary or desirable.
It is essential, however, for the Project Manager to understand
the technology, the
markets, and the environment of the business to participate
effectively in the search for
integrated solutions and technological innovations. More
important, without this
understanding, the integrated consequences of local decisions on
the total Project, the
potential growth ramifications, and relationships to other
business opportunities cannot
be foreseen by the manager. Further technical expertise is
necessary to evaluate
technical concepts and solutions, to communicate effectively in
technical terms with the
project team, and to assess risks and make trade-offs between
cost, schedule, and
technical issues. This is why in complex problem-solving
situations so many project
managers must have an engineering background.
Taken together, technical expertise is important to the
successful management of
engineering projects. It is composed of an understanding of the:
tools and techniques employed
markets, their customers, and requirements
trends and evolutions
among supporting technologies
People who are
part of the technical community
This is normally an excellent testing ground for the future
Project Manager. It also
allows top management to judge the new candidate's capacity for
technological innovations and integration of solutions needed
5. Planning Skills:
Planning skills are helpful for any undertaking; they are
absolutely essential, however,
for the successful management of large complex projects. The
project plan is the road
map that defines how to get from the start to the final results.
Project planning is an ongoing activity at all organizational
levels. However, the
preparation of a project summary plan, prior to project start,
is the responsibility of the
Project Manager. Effective project planning requires particular
skills far beyond writing
a document with schedules and budgets. It requires communication
processing skills to define the actual resource requirements and
necessary. It requires the ability to negotiate the necessary
resources and commitments
from key personnel in various support organizations with little
or no formal authority,
including the definition of measurable milestones.
Effective planning requires skills in the areas of:
top management involvement
In addition, the Project Manager must assure that the plan
remains a viable document.
Changes in project scope and depth are inevitable. The plan
should reflect necessary
changes through formal revisions and should be the guiding
document throughout the
life cycle of the Project. Nothing is more useless than an
obsolete or irrelevant plan.
Finally, Project Managers need to be aware that planning can be
overdone. If not
controlled, planning can become an end in itself and a poor
substitute for innovative
work. Individuals retreat to the utopia of no responsibility
where innovative actions
cannot be taken ''because it is not in the plan." It is the
responsibility of the Project
Manager to build flexibility into the plan and regulate it
against such misuse.
6. Organizational Skills:
The Project Manager must be a social architect, that is, he must
understand how the
organization works and how to work with the organization.
Organizational skills are
particularly important during project formation and startup when
the Project Manager
establishes the project organization by integrating people from
disciplines into an effective work team. It requires far more
than simply constructing a
project organization chart. At a minimum, it requires defining
relationships, responsibilities, lines of control, and
information needs. Supporting skills
in the area of planning, communication, and conflict resolution
are particularly helpful.
A good project plan and a task matrix are useful organizational
tools. In addition, the
organizational effort is facilitated by clearly defined project
communication channels, good project leadership, and senior
7. Entrepreneurial Skills:
The Project Manager also needs a general management perspective.
economic considerations are one important area that normally
affects the organization's
financial performance. However, objectives often are much
broader than profits.
Customer satisfaction, future growth, cultivation of related
market activities, and
minimum organizational disruptions of other projects might be
equally important goals.
The effective Project Manager is concerned with all these
issues. Entrepreneurial skills
are developed through actual experience. However, formal
training (MBA type), special
seminars, and cross-functional training projects can help to
develop the entrepreneurial
skills needed by Project Managers.
8. Administrative Skills:
Administrative skills are essential. The Project Manager must be
planning, staffing, budgeting, scheduling, and other control
techniques. In dealing with
technical personnel, the problem is seldom to make people
techniques such as budgeting and scheduling, but to impress on
them that costs and
schedules are just as important as elegant technical solutions.
Particularly on larger projects, managers rarely have all the
required. While it is important that Project Managers understand
operating procedures and available tools, it is often necessary
for the program manager
to free him/her from administrative details regardless of
his/her ability to handle them.
He/she has to delegate considerable administrative tasks to
support groups or hire a
Some helpful tools for the manager in the administration of his
• The meeting
• The report
• The review
• The budget and
Project Managers must be thoroughly familiar with these
available tools and know how
to use them effectively.
9. Management Support Building Skills:
The Project Manager is surrounded by a myriad of organizations
that either support
them or control their activities. An understanding of these
interfaces is important to
Project Managers as it enhances their ability to build favorable
relationships with senior
management. Management support is often an absolute necessity
for dealing effectively
with interface groups. Project organizations are shared power
systems with personnel of
many diverse interests and "ways of doing things." These power
systems have a
tendency toward imbalance. Only a strong leader backed by senior
prevent the development of unfavorable biases.
Four key variables influence the project manager's ability to
relationships with senior management. These are:
1. Their ongoing credibility
2. The visibility of their project
3. The priority of the project relative to other organizational
4. Their own accessibility
All these factors are interrelated and can be developed by the
Furthermore, senior management can aid such development
10. Resource Allocation Skills:
A project organization has many bosses. Functional lines often
organizations from direct financial control by the project
office. Once a task has been
authorized, it is often impossible to control the personnel
assignments, priorities, and
indirect manpower costs. In addition, profit accountability is
difficult owing to the
interdependencies of various support departments and the often
changing work scope
Effective and detailed project planning may facilitate
commitment and reinforce
control. Part of the plan is the "Statement of Work," which
establishes a basis for
resource allocation. It is also important to work out specific
agreements with all key
contributors and their superiors on the tasks to be performed
and the associated budgets
and schedules. Measurable milestones are not only important for
but also for the "invisible" project components such as systems
and software tasks.
Ideally, these commitments on specifications, schedules, and
budgets should be
established through involvement by key personnel in the early
phases of project
formation, such as the proposal phase. This is the time when
requirements are still
flexible, and trade-offs among performance, schedule, and budget
6.2 Functional Manager versus Project Manager:
Assuming that the Project and Functional Managers is not the
same person, we can identify a
specific role for the Functional Manager. There are the
following elements to this role:
• The Functional
Manager has the responsibility to define
the task will be done and where the
task will be done (i.e., the technical criteria).
• The Functional
Manager has the responsibility to provide sufficient resources to accomplish the objective within the project's constraints (i.e.,
will get the job done).
• The Functional
Manager has the responsibility for the deliverable.
The major responsibility of the Project Manager is planning. If
project planning is performed
correctly, then it is conceivable that the Project Manager will
work himself out of a job because
the project can run itself. As the architect of the project
plan, the Project Manager must provide:
• Complete task
requirement definitions (possibly skill levels)
• Major timetable
• Definition of
end item quality and reliability requirements
• The basis for
These factors, if properly established, result in:
• Assurance that
functional units will understand their total responsibilities toward achieving
• Assurance that
problems resulting from scheduling and allocation of critical resources are
identification of problems that may jeopardize successful project completion so
effective corrective action and re-planning can be done to
prevent or resolve the problems.
Project Manager are responsible for project administration and,
therefore, must have the right to
establish their own policies, procedures, rules, guidelines, and
directives – provided these
policies, guidelines etc. conform to overall company policy.
Companies with mature project
management structures usually have rather loose company
guidelines, so project managers have
some degree of flexibility in how to control their projects.
6.3 Selecting the Project Manager:
Probably the most difficult decision facing upper level
management is the selection of Project
Manager. Some Managers work best on long-duration projects where
decision making can be
slow; others may thrive on short-duration projects that can
result in a constant pressure
The new individual is apt to make the same mistakes the veteran
made. However, executives
cannot always go with the seasoned veterans without creating
frustrating career path
opportunities for the younger personnel. Project Manager
selection is a general management
• A Project
Manager is given license to cut across several organizational lines. His
therefore, take on a flavor of general management, and must be
management will not succeed without good Project Managers. Thus, if general
management sees fit to establish a project, it should certainly
see fit to select a good man as
• A Project
Manager is far more likely to accomplish desired goals if it is obvious that
general management has selected and appointed him.
The selection process for Project Manager is not an easy one.
Five basic questions must be
1. What are the internal and external sources?
2. How do we select?
3. How do we provide career development in project management?
4. How can we develop project management skills?
5. How do we evaluate project management performance?
Project management cannot succeed unless a good Project Manager
is at the controls. The
selection process is an upper level management responsibility
because the Project Manager is
delegated the authority of the general manager to cut across
organizational lines in order to
accomplish the desired objectives successfully. It is far more
likely that Project Manager will
succeed if it is obvious to the subordinates that the general
manager has appointed them.
Usually, a brief memo to the line managers will suffice.
Figure 6.1: Organizational hierarchy
6.5 Duties and Job Descriptions:
Since projects, environments, and organizations differ from
company to company as well as
project to project, it is not unusual for companies to struggle
to provide reasonable job
descriptions of the Project Manager and associated personnel.
Below is a simple list identifying
the duties of a project manager in the construction industry.
completely familiar with all contract documents.
basic plan for executing and controlling the project.
preparation of project procedures.
preparation of the project budget.5
preparation of the project schedule.
preparation of basic project design criteria and general specifications.
preparation of the plan for organizing, executing, and controlling field construction activities.
and procedures periodically and institute changes if necessary.
organization chart for project.
• Review project
position descriptions, outlining duties, responsibilities, and
restrictions for key project supervisors.
• Participate in
the selection of key project supervisors.
• Develop project
review project organization and recommend changes in organizational
structure and personnel, if necessary.
• Direct all work
on the project that is required to meet contract obligations.
• Develop and
maintain a system for decision making within the project team
whereby decisions are made at the proper level.
• Promote the
growth of key project supervisors.
objectives for Project Manager and performance goals for key Project
• Foster and
develop a spirit of project team effort.
• Assist in
resolution of differences or problems between departments or groups on
• Anticipate and
avoid or minimize potential problems by maintaining current
knowledge of overall project status.
• Monitor project
activities for compliance with company purpose and philosophy
and general corporate policies.
communicate, and require compliance with the contract, the approved
plan, project procedures, and directives of the client.
personal control of adherence to contract warranty and guarantee
• Closely monitor
project activities for conformity to contract scope provisions.
Establish change notice procedure to evaluate and communicate
effective communications with the client and all groups performing
6.6 Next Generation Project Managers:
The skills needed to be an effective, twenty-first century
Project Manager have changed from
those needed during the 1980s. Historically, only engineers were
given the opportunity to
become Project Managers. The belief was that the Project Manager
had to have a command of
technology in order to make all of the technical decisions. As
project management began to
grow and as projects became larger and more complex, it became
obvious that Project
Managers might need simply an understanding rather than a
command of technology. This trend
will become even more pronounced in the twenty-first century.
The primary skills needed to be an effective project manager in
the this century will be:
• Knowledge of
• Risk management
The critical skill is risk management. However, to perform risk
management effectively, a
sound knowledge of the business is required. Figure 6.2 below
shows the changes in project
management skills needed between 1985 and 2000. Training in
these business skills is on the
Figure 6.2: Project Management Skills
6.7 Table: Methods and Techniques for Developing Project
I. Experiential training/on-the-job
Working with experienced professional leader
Working with project team member
Assigning a variety of project management responsibilities,
Formal on-the-job training
Supporting multifunctional activities
Customer liaison activities
II. Conceptual training/schooling
Courses, seminars, workshops
Simulations, games, cases
Hands-on exercises in using project management techniques
Readings, books, trade journals, professional magazines
III. Organizational development
Formally established and recognized project management function
Proper project organization
Project support systems
Project management directives, policies, and procedures.