As Project Management Evolves A New Set Of Issues Is Demanding Attention

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A project is a set of tasks performed under given set of conditions with limited resources over a period of time. Projects have evolved with the evolution of man's understanding for sophistication in living and technology which shape his environment. The need for the project arises with a predefined aim and goal to satisfy a client on the basis of one's needs and demands. Each phase in a project has its own requirements and demands pertaining to which issues may arise. Each task performed in sequential order enabling the progression with the completion of the individual modules helping structuring the project as a whole. The life cycle of a project undergoes different phases, each giving rise to a new set of issues pertaining to the tasks involved and the conditions under which they are performed. These issues may have existing solutions from precious projects or could be unique and require experts providing possible alternative solutions which may prove to be the efficient and effective. The organizations use various strategies which may suit the project's needs.

Organisation strategy and project selection

      Organization strategy is necessary to navigate the company according to its aims and visions by the means of projects [9]. The strategy defined has to set long term goals and set standards to progress and evolve. A strategy should bring together every individual of the organization, setting goals at every level to achieve objectives in measurable terms. Every standard or goal set must help achieve a higher goal and maintain a steady progression in quality of service rendered to its clients. The analyses of various factors to determine the best strategy may depend on the work system, culture of environment, and the social, political, and economic factors which may directly influence the projects to be undertaken by the organization. They should promote strategies which help achieve their aims and objectives. This restructuring may cause fluctuations in market values and may add to costs but these factors have to be seen as investments for a long term goal. Hence the identified strategies have to be implemented through appropriate project selection which may enable a favourable environment. The priority for a sequential progression towards the goal has to be adapted and established. This requires allocation of resources accordingly to maintain a consistent utilization, with a balance between man and material. Project portfolio management requires a structured process and strategy within the organization. This helps with easy communication, avoiding political issues and helps avoid conflicts promoting multitasking which may help handling of more than one project in an organised and systematic way.

Organisation structure and culture

      The foundation of an organisation strengthens with each of its successful completion of projects. Hence it becomes vital to understand how restructuring could help enhance the productivity of the company. The hierarchy of structure which form the company should be more transparent and function accordingly in order to prevent any confusion. Each company may restructure according to the project undertaken.

      Functional organization is one of the oldest concepts still adopted due to its popularity and success. It basically involves individual departments' setup to perform a repetitive or routine function. This ensures progression in each department as with different projects they attain more knowledge and perfection in their tasks. There are two ways in which each project is approached by either a chief project manager assigning each task to various departments or vice versa of each individual department having a manager who sorts the tasks and performs accordingly. This proves more advantageous while working with a small scale project with a limited resource and predictable outcome of task, whereas it becomes a chaos and there is no individual performance recognition with increase in complexity of projects [1].

      Project organization is a specific formation of a team to complete a given task. These teams are formed based on the project and their speciality in the area of work. Hence forming a dedicated a team of labour work force and resources to a given task in completion of the project. The team is dissolved as soon as the project is completed. Here the dedicated resource and expertise help perform better and complete the task more effectively and efficiently. This structure was organized solely to handle complex projects. However they proved disadvantageous as the team requires sometime to perform together and the underutilization of resources have also been a concern.

      The Matrix organization is a evolution of both its counterparts. The positive aspects of both the structures were assimilated leaving behind their disadvantageous. This structure proves effective with multiple projects being handled simultaneously. With the overview of managers of various tasks ensuring quality of service being delivered, each task of various projects is performed by experts enabling perfection. They still have their own disadvantages of individuals having to report to more than one manager creating a chaos. Effective management and communication would provide a better solution [3]. However the matrix organization is further classified as a functional or weak matrix structure, a strong matrix or heavyweight structure and balanced or middle weight structure. The weak matrix propagates the decentralization of power proving disadvantageous to project managers with functional manager's authority gaining importance and priority. This creates a communication barrier within the system in coordinating various tasks proving an overall decline in quality of service in the project. But it does have some upsides due to its presence in the existing organizations, aiding communication and employee satisfaction with an existing work environment. The strong matrix being the contrary is the centralization of authority. This empowers the project managers and hence his crucial role is questioned of this capability and assurance. But ineffectiveness or bad decisions could prove expensive. The final structure is a solution with a balance of authority and power enabling a more productive environment.

      The work culture in a setup is defined by the people who comprise of the organisation and their work ethics and attitude towards their role and responsibility. It is necessary that every employee feel a part and their role affects the overall structure in order to make their presence be appreciated by the organisation. Recognition of work is required for a progressive attitude towards one's work, providing an ambient work culture among the employees. There are several characteristics which build the cultural face such as the involving process orientation, governance, training, roles and responsibilities [4]. Several companies have well defined structures which prove fool proof in helping them deliver projects successfully. The hierarchy is clearly enforced and roles and responsibility defined ensure in sequential progression of work without ambiguity. The initial recruitment process has to be clear in assigning a suitable job for a person ensuring his performance and suitability to the nature of work because in most companies the role played by an individual would determine the company's ability to deliver projects. These are some of the issues which ensure a successful cultural organization.

Risk management

      Risk management is a part of the project which have to be accepted as a challenge and efforts to predict, analyse, resolve and monitor them should be a part of the system [5]. Some of the ways to manage risks are:

  • Incorporating risk management. - Risks are inevitable and should be viewed with a positive approach. Every project team has to incorporate a risk management team which assess the sequence of the project and analyses them for any potential risks. This ensures a rather proactive approach in which the organization is prepared for the outcomes for what it might face [6].
  • Predicting risks. - Being prepared for the risks involves being able to foretell one. This can be done by two methods by people and by paper. The former one is by people interaction in discussions, individual departments and forums. The later being by experts who have gained knowledge through experience who on assessing documents can read between the lines. These are some of the ways of predicting risks.
  • Risk Communication. - Any issue must not be ignored but rather communicated and resolved by the management at the earliest. Delay in a process or schedule, or technical issues regarding a task have to be reported to the concerned authority. All discussions must have a risk communication by which individuals would be concerned in observing and reporting them. Any risks should also be transparent so that the client is aware of all the processes and is able to judge the situation rather than backing away from it.
  • Issues and potentials. - Every issue has to be addressed in a positive approach which enables mutual gain for both parties in case of conflicts or should be aimed at viewing possible outcomes or advantages that maybe occur due to them. This not only provides a opportunity for the organization but also provides a positive environment [7].
  • Prioritising risks. - It is another factor which is to be addressed, because it is vital that the risk management allocates resources. Some risks may have heavy costs or deviations in time and resource and may require more attention than others. Hence ensure that the cost factors and rescheduling have to be worked out accordingly.
  • Analysing quantitative and qualitative risks. - Quantitative risks involve statistical data such as the probable costs that could occur due to the risk and rescheduling. These are derived from the existing data or input with assumptions based on previous experience. The Quantitative data is an analysis of the probability of the risk from occurring, change in object of the project, the frequency it may occur. Such data are based on experience and generated models [8].
  • Risk response planning. - This is who an organization responds to a risk. It is to be noted that risks should not be transferred to a third party or tried to be ignored but predicted and assigned to the concerned department so that they are aware and work towards less probability of it from happening.
  • Risk monitoring and control. - The probability of occurrence of a risk from happening again has to be assured through regular monitoring and assessment of the situation periodically.

Cross cultural issues

      With the growing globalization of projects, cross cultural issues can no longer be disregarded. Cross cultural issues are a result of lack of understanding of the local work culture. There could be several issues such as language, individualism, cooperation, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity/ femininity, conflict resolution, work group characteristics, motivation systems etc. Language is now the least of the issues which is of concern. It is preferred to understand the localised material and language but can always be overcome by a guide. The western attitude towards English being the universal language is not so appreciated when the eastern culture of respecting the local language and taking efforts to learn them in concerned. The western concepts of individualism by decision making are contrary to the collectivism preached by the eastern counties. The western relationships are more contractual and conditions based whereas the eastern nations preach a more relationship and dedication based. The eastern countries avoid risks or share them as roles and responsibilities unlike its counterpart which enjoys taking more risks and projects involving uncertainties. Because the eastern systems are more relationship based, confronting is not a preferred option which is usually solved with influence of power whereas western culture prefers direct confrontation. Personal relationships are disregarded in work systems in western philosophies whereas a group based relationship with considerations to individual's personal relationship is more appreciated in a eastern system. Eastern work cultures propagate harmony, interdependence, and collective goal as their motivation whereas western work culture propagates more of individual effort, contribution and performance based on which an individual progresses in work. These are some of the cross cultural issues but there are yet more to be addressed.

The technical and socio cultural issues

      The socio cultural issues are more pertaining to the internal environment of the organization whereas the technical issues address the mechanical functioning of the system

  • Leadership. - Leadership involves possessing clarity in the vision of the organization, qualities of promoting teamwork, creating an ambient environment without ambiguity, being transparent between the management and the team, motivating to achieve higher goals, must gain trust of his fellow crew and navigating the project towards a successful completion. He must possess characteristics to make quick decisions, resolve issues, take preventive measures, negotiate contracts, keep the project running in time with the required resources and man power.
  • Problem solving. - A problem must be viewed in a multi perspective. This helps in first understanding the nature of existing problem, analysing the issue multi dimensionally, seeking alternative solutions, providing the most suitable of them and ensuring its effective performance. Problem solving not only deals with the actual problem but also the aftermath of how it performs when applied practically.
  • Teamwork. - In order for the organizations to perform smoothly without any ambiguity requires every individual to feel a part of the team working towards a common goal. Roles and responsibilities have to be accepted and performed accordingly. Issues must be appropriately handled and solutions sought rather than ignoring them and trying to find a third person to handle them.
  • Negotiations. - In case of disputes or contractual agreements, negotiations must be sought out in a positive attitude. Solutions sought must be fair and mutually beneficial. If solutions are agreed on, contracts clearly stating the terms and conditions must be signed on to ensure the reliability of a party. Negotiations must seek long term healthy relationships rather than resolve disputes for a temporary period.
  • Politics. - The presence of power always gives rise to clash of ideas or over powering ones ideas. Hierarchy in the management has to be clearly stated and powers vested upon each team or individual must not be misused but rather used to help in promoting a healthy environment among the organization.
  • Customer expectations. - The needs of the customers have to be clearly understood and the organizations prime objective must be to provide suitable solutions satisfying their needs. The customers expected to be serviced by the project have to be narrowed to provide attention to their priorities and have a better understanding of the nature of people being dealt with. Regular surveys have to be conducted to ensure the quality of service provided is up to the expectations of the customers ensuring their further interest or future investment in the project and in the organization.

Technical issues are a those involved with the scope of the project, the statistics involved,

Outsourcing managing inter organizational relations

      In a global market condition, outsourcing is a key factor in successful completion of a project. Outsourcing helps simultaneous execution of work which may save time bringing down the costs, each specialised task is carried out by teams with expertise and perfection, helping the organization maintain standard and promotes a healthy long term relationship with its clients [10]. There however are several downsides to outsourcing such as political issues within an organization, conflicts between the contractors and the authority of the project is lost with distribution of power. Such factors can be avoided by well planned selection of firms or tasks to be outsourced. Ensure a reliable contractual agreement before initiation of work. The terms and conditions of the contract are discussed and agreed upon before involvement of both the parties. A proper coordination of team work has to be established among the individuals and organizations involved. Standards must be set and each task or issues must be reviewed periodically to ensure quality or work. Team building exercises must be promoted and advocated with common goals through mutual benefits.

Conclusion

      The understanding of projects has evolved to a more systematic and strategic process. These are some of the issues which have gained significance to have been provided with effective and efficient solutions. It is vital to understand that a project that has failed can teach us more that a successful one. But as projects evolve through globalization there may arise more issues of concern for which we are yet to seek solutions. These issues not only address the project but also help us see the importance of dealing with issues even before the project is actually planned, starting from its conception, the need for the project, establishing hierarchy in management, contractual agreements, project planning, allocating resources, risk management, monitoring the progress of the project ensuring its successful completion. Hence, analysis of projects that have failed to perform to their standards have questioned our fundamentals of handling a project, for which the solutions have helped perceive new approaches to problems, they help shape our aims and objectives, rethink strategies and restructure our work environment providing us means of delivering successful projects.

References

  1. Kristin Mercer. (Wednesday, May 02, 2007). Organization structure as a factor in innovation: A review of the literature.The Journal of Technology Transfer. 7 (2), 15-20.
  2. Michael Russell. (2001).Organizational Structures In Project Management.Available: http://ezinearticles.com/?Organizational-Structures-In-Project-Management&id=424910. Last accessed 9 december 2009.
  3. Karen R.J. White. (october 2001).The Functional to Matrix Transition.Available: http://www.pmsolutions.com/uploads/pdfs/function_matrix.pdf. Last accessed 27 november 2009.
  4. Tom Mochal. (Jul 02, 2003).Organizational culture and structure influence project management more than you realize.Available: http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5035216.html. Last accessed 3 december 2009.
  5. Bart Jutte. (2008).www.projectsmart.co.uk.Available: http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/pdf/10-golden-rules-of-project-risk-management.pdf. Last accessed 12 december 2009.
  6. AIRMIC. (2002).A Risk Management Standard.Available: http://www.theirm.org/publications/documents/Risak_Management_Standard_030820.pdf. Last accessed 15 november 2009
  7. Caltrans (May 2, 2007).PROJECT RISK MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK. 2nd ed. Sacramento, CA: Office of Statewide Project Management Improvement. 3 december 2009.
  8. Mohamed Noordin Yusuff. (2004). APPROACHES TO RISK MANAGEMENT.CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO PROJECT RISK MANAGEMENT: ASSESSMENT & RECOMMENDATIONS. 3 (4), 5-8.
  9. ESUI. (2006). Project Management and the Organisational Strategy.Project Management and the Organisational Strategy. 1 (1), 3-5.
  10. Frederic Prevot (2004).MANAGING INTER-ORGANIZATIONAL TRANSFER OF COMPETENCE: A CASE STUDY. -: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 165 - 186.
  11. Gray Larson (2008). Project Management. The managerial process. 4 (1).

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