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Here is the case study that forms the backbone of this handbook. It is a model situation around which we have built our guidelines for effective and successful project management, using the functions of leading, defining, planning, organizing, controlling, and closing.
Great Weddings, Inc. (GWI), located in New York City, provides a full line of wedding services: sending announcements to friends, relatives, and newspapers; providing prewedding parties and rehearsals (e.g., bachelor parties and bridal showers); determining the ceremony and reception locations; arranging for travel and hotel accommodations, food and beverages; preparing and mailing invitations; providing wedding attire, flowers, sound, lighting, music, entertainment, decorations and props, photography and videotaping; coordinating wedding transportation; and preparing the wedding feast and cake.
GWI provides wedding services in fourteen states. In 1997, its revenue was $5 million after it was in business for seven years. Amelia Rainbow is president and CEO of GWI, which is privately owned, and she holds 100 percent of the stock.
Growth for the business has been slowing in recent years, from 10 percent annually three years ago to 2 percent this year. If this trend continues, the business could stagnate—or, worse, it might have to reduce services.
Rainbow has several department heads at vice-presidential levels reporting to
her. Each department has a corporate staff reporting to her. All weddings are
managed out of its corporate headquarters in
General Nature of the Business
GWI frequently receives solicitations for proposals. These requests are for weddings of all sizes and religions. A proposal request is a formal document sent to potential vendors. It states the requirements and expectations of the client, as well as the terms and conditions of the contract. A reply to a proposal request provides vendors with the opportunity to describe the who, what, when, where, and how for meeting the proposal’s request.
A proposal has three major components: technical, management, and cost. The technical component includes:
Vendor’s experience/expertise with similar projects
List of equipment
Photographs of end products
Exhibit 2-1. GWI organizational chart.
Standards (e.g., levels of acceptance)
The management component includes:
Project management methodology/approach
Program/project plan (to achieve goals and objectives)
Résumé of cadre (key) personnel
Statement of work
Subcontract work (e.g., names of subcontractors and experience/expertise)
The cost component includes:
Cost for subcontract work (e.g., labor rates, equipment rental)
Price breakout (for services and products)
Type of contract (e.g., lump sum, fixed price)
There are three types of proposal requests: letter request, request for information, and request for proposal. The major difference among them is the level of effort and resources needed for a response and commitment upon notification of winning the contract. A letter request briefly conveys the needs of the client. A request for information usually seeks clarification about specific areas of technology. It does not require the vendor to provide any services or render any commitments. It often precedes an opportunity to respond to a request for proposal. And a request for proposal is a detailed, complex contract opportunity. High costs and levels of effort are necessary to prepare and respond to it.
day, GWI receives a request to host a large wedding from the Smythes, a wealthy
American family. The Smythes recently returned from a two-week trip to
Amelia recognizes that the wedding could provide the opportunity to open up a niche that GWI had until now not tapped—American wedding firms providing services in other countries. Such a wedding would be unprecedented, both in location and in size. Amelia knows, however, that it will enable GWI to avoid stagnation and grow in a highly competitive industry.
Amelia realizes that she has no choice but to use the existing infrastructure to handle such an unprecedented project. The entire wedding will also be competing with other ongoing wedding activities. Such weddings, too, are considered unprecedented opportunities, meaning that hiring more staff now might mean later laying off people or absorbing costs that could hurt GWI in the future. Amelia also recognizes that this wedding must be treated more carefully than most because of its high visibility and the amount of money being spent.
The wedding, she knows, is an excellent candidate for applying solid project management disciplines. The wedding itself has all the criteria for being a project. It has a defined product, which is a wedding. It has definite start and stop dates. It has a sequence of activities that are required to make the wedding a reality. Finally, it is temporary. Once the wedding is over—unless, of course, the idea catches on—people and other resources will be returned to “normal” business life.
The Initial Process
Prior to responding to the wedding request, Amelia forms a proposal team to develop the response. She appoints a proposal manager, Dave Renberg. Dave forms a team of wedding experts and a technical writer.
Dave and his team verify that the wedding will support the strategic plan. Then they conduct an internal assessment to determine whether GWI has the capabilities to support the project and it does. Next, they perform an assessment to determine the risks that GWI might face if it takes on the project and what measures to employ to prevent or mitigate those risks. GWI finds it has the capabilities to respond to the risks, although they stretch the company to the limits.
The team is then ready for the next step: prepare the proposal. After the team completes the first draft, Dave establishes an internal review team to critique the proposal. The internal review team consists of people with finance, legal, and wedding backgrounds. After several iterations, the proposal is available for Amelia’s signature. After carefully reviewing its contents, Amelia signs the proposal. Within a week, she receives notification that GWI has won the contract with the Smythe family.
What Type of Project Manager Are You?
In Corporate Pathfinders (New York: Penguin Books, 1987), Harold J. Leavitt identifies three types of managers in an organizational setting: problem solvers, implementers, and pathfinders.
The manager who is a problem solver emphasizes the use of reasoning, logic, and analysis. A key characteristic is reliance on facts and data.
The manager who is an implementer emphasizes the use of action through people. A key characteristic is reliance on human emotions and persuasion.
The manager who is a pathfinder emphasizes the use of visioning. A key characteristic is the importance placed on values and beliefs.
If a project requires vision, then choose a pathfinder as leader. If a project requires trouble fixing or hard logical analysis (e.g., defining requirements and specifications), then a problem solver would make the best choice. If a project requires a person with good people skills, then an implementer would be the best choice.
The next issue for Amelia to address is to determine at what hierarchical level within the company the project should be placed and what its most appropriate structure is. One criterion is to give the project as much visibility as possible. She wants to communicate its priority. With other wedding projects occurring simultaneously, it is easy to forget this priority.
She decides to establish a steering committee to oversee the overall performance of the project. This steering committee will consist of all the vice-presidents, or their representatives, with Sam Herkle of Quality as chair. The purposes of the steering committee are to provide general oversight of and guidance to the project. The steering committee will have a dotted-line relationship to Amelia, as shown in Exhibit 2-2.
Amelia next decides to adopt a matrix structure for the project itself. Although the project manager would be at the vice-presidential level, the resources must be borrowed from other organizations until the demand for this type of wedding increases in number, value, and longevity. The matrix structure enables her to tape the expertise of functional groups and use people on a temporary basis. While completing the Smythe Project, they could also support other wedding projects.
Exhibit 2-2. Organizational placement of Smythe Project.
Amelia does, however, consider a task force structure for the project. This structure involves assigning people as dedicated members to a project—meaning they support no other project. That would require removing people from other important projects and hiring replacements, which in turn means layoffs later on. She realizes, though, that a task force structure would grant the project more visibility and autonomy. The shortage of skills, the need for supporting existing weddings, and the temporary and risky nature of the project make the matrix structure the most appropriate selection. See Exhibit 2-3 for a comparison of these structure types.
Selection of the Project Manager
The final initial step is to select the right person to serve as project manager. Amelia recognizes the importance of selecting the right person—his or her qualities have a direct impact on the outcome of the wedding. That’s why she looks first and foremost at the leadership qualities of the person. After all, many qualified people can do the mechanics of project management, but not everyone is a project leader.
After making a few mistakes in the past, Amelia has learned that the technically competent person is not necessarily a competent project leader. A person may have the best logical and analytical mind in the group and yet lack the qualities that lead a project to a successful conclusion. Because the project manager must interact with many people (such as sponsors, senior management, client, and team members), it is important that that person have good “people skills.” These skills include:
Exhibit 2-3. Task vs. matrix structure.
Task Structure Matrix Structure
Greater control over people
Greater decision-making authority
Access to expertise not ordinarily available
Flexibility in adopting to changing circumstances
Less idle time for team members
Fewer morale problems as project concludes
Impacted by turnover
Less flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances
Threat to morale as project winds down
Conflict with other projects of higher priority
High stress due to conflicting demands
Less control over people
Less decision-making authority
Active listening • Business orientation • Coaching • Communication • Conflict resolution • Cross-functional thinking • Customer orientation • Delegation • Diversity orientation • Facilitation • Interviewing • Mediation • Meetings management • Negotiation • Networking • Political savvy • Power of persuasion • Priority setting • Sensitivity • Successful delivery of product • Team building • Time management Of course, she also recognizes the need for additional skills: • Communications (writing and public speaking) • Computer literacy • Knowledge of human resource management, procurement, and quality • Legal affairs • Organizational • Planning • Product/technical knowledge • Risk management • Statistics and mathematics
Finally, Amelia recognizes that the project manager must have certain personality characteristics:
Can deal with uncertainty and ambiguity
Delivers a product or service
Flexible and adaptable
Has high ethical standards
Looks at the overall picture
Self-reliant and independent
Understands legal matters
Willing to change and provide recognition
The Power of the Project Manager
Power is often defined as the ability to influence key players in the decision-making process to achieve a goal. In other words, power means getting what one wants.
Project managers often feel powerless because they lack the powers of functional managers, such as hiring and firing. While true, they are not as powerless as they think. According to management theorists John French and Bertram Raven, five different sources of power exist. Each applies to varying extents to the project manager.
Coercive power uses fear as a primary tool. It involves inflicting punishment. Project managers usually have little coercive power in an overt sense. On a more subtle level, however, they may not assign certain people to coveted tasks, not invite them to meetings, or not communicate with them.
Reward power uses positive financial and nonmonetary tools. Most project managers lack the power to use monetary incentives. However, they can provide feedback to functional managers on performance, which in turn provides a basis for determining salary increases. Project managers can also pay for training and dispense other perks. From a nonmonetary perspective, they can reward people by assigning them to high-visibility tasks, as well as involve them in the decision-making process.
Legitimate power is the authority granted by the institution. In other words, such power allows managers to “order” people with the full backing of the institution. Project managers, especially in a matrix environment, lack this power—they must use other power sources. Still, they have some legitimate power, especially if they have the political support of a powerful senior manager.
Expert power is based on a person’s knowledge credentials, expertise, or education. Project managers are often chosen for these characteristics and they gain considerable power in this regard. The only problem is that project managers often become narrowly focused, failing to see the big picture and working on other key areas. In addition, they have power only as long as people respect those characteristics.
Referent power is based on trait theory—that is, a person’s characteristics. These project managers have certain characteristics that make people want to follow them. An example of such a trait is charisma.
In the end, she wants someone who can lead groups of people as well as individuals, provide a vision of what the project is to achieve, be able to communicate effectively, ensure that people stay focused on the vision, motivate people to participate, and facilitate and expedite performance. After conversations with executives on the steering committee and after reviewing the performance records of prospective candidates, Amelia selects Perry Fitzberg as the project manager.
At this point, you have seen the initial steps taken by senior management in assessing the worth of the project, evaluating its prospects for success, and establishing the responsibility for project management. Review the following questions, then move on to Chapter 3, where the qualities of project leadership are considered from a broad perspective.
Questions for Getting Started
What type of organizational structure does your project have? Is it task force? Matrix?
What soft skills will you need to lead your project? Do you know what areas to improve upon?
What hard skills will you need to lead your project? Do you know what areas to improve upon?
What aspects of your personality will prove useful in leading your project? Do you know what aspects to improve upon?
How will you provide a vision of what the project is to achieve?
Do you communicate effectively?
How will you ensure that people stay focused on the vision?
Do you have ideas for motivating people to participate?
Can you facilitate and expedite their performance?
What ideas do you have for leading groups of people?
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