Importance of Leadership Skills in Project Management

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8th Feb 2020 Project Management Reference this

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Projects in today’s world are becoming an essential part of any organisation whether small, medium or large scale. The need to manage projects and teams for success has never been more critical and human resource management or human behaviour, the behaviour or attitude of the project managers play a vital role in this. Following paper focuses on the critical analysis of four core papers as well as various other researches are done on the management of people at work and their behaviour for a project to be a success and how it could be helpful in a project management role as well as to our future/career.

Critical Analysis –

With the increase of projects in the world and the project-based or project-oriented companies, the project manager is required to demonstrate a well-practised competency, Human Resource Management. Traditionally, the PMs just used to follow the transactional leadership approach where bonus systems, appreciations were pre-defined if a team member performs well and if the performance drops, some penalties were present. However, as we can observe from the research (Yang, Huang and Wu, 2011), adopting transformational leadership style can result in improvement of team collaboration, cohesiveness and even communication which in turn helps the project to be a success. PMs should use their charismatic skills as well as having some systems to appreciate their team member who helps to build a strong relationship among team members irrespective of the organisation being medium or large. It is also observed how vital the teamwork and dedication is on the project performance. Stronger the team collaboration and communication is, higher are the chances of the projects’ success. Projects with a higher complexity are more likely to be successful with a high level of team communication, cohesiveness and collaboration (Yang, Huang and Wu, 2011). This study portrays how much teamwork (communication, collaboration and cohesiveness) and the right type of leadership style to support it could help the project become a success irrespective of the complexity of it or how massive the organisation is.

On the contrary, it also needs to be highlighted that not only should a PM focus on choosing a leadership style or practice some HRM techniques within the team, the organisation also needs to understand that the PMs are not allrounders or as mentioned in the article (Loufrani-Fedida and Missonier, 2015), Heroes! As highlighted in the research based on four case studies revolving around project-based organisations (PBOs), the senior management should not focus on just the responsibilities exercised by the PMs but also look at the responsibility regarding organisational competencies. Laying in simple terms, the managers should focus on both aspects viz. the individual competencies as well as the centred organisational competencies. Looking at all aspects of competencies will help reduce the stress in the project-based environment and will help all the actors to drive the success of the project.

Further, the study also highlights, the functions of the company manage the individual functional competencies possessed by the people involved in the project. However, integrative competencies allow the combining and coordinating of individual functional competencies within projects as organisational capabilities. This approach would also help to change the traditional point of view of single-level analysis to a multilevel one being a fact,

“most management problems involve multilevel phenomena, yet most management research uses a single level of analysis”.

As stated by (Hitt et al., 2007) in the paper (Loufrani-Fedida and Missonier, 2015). This study also helps in understanding the fact that organisations should not focus on just the micro or macro level, but a link should be present between them and making them a collective competence.

 Another study (Keegan, Huemann and Turner, 2012), focuses on HRM practices in four project-oriented companies (POCs) highlights how the HRM practices and techniques are crucial for not just the HRM department but also the line manager and project manager. Moreover, human resources need to be redefined in an increasingly strategic role because their mediation tends to affect all levels of the organisation, be it line managers or project managers. HRM practices, in all, depending upon various environmental and organisational characteristics such as the size of the organisation, management approach, the role of the state, national culture, business strategy, organisational culture, the degree of centralisation or decentralisation, ownership, and many more. Similarly, it also depends upon the size of the HRM department as well as who has the operational responsibility for it. This study helped me in correlating the experience I was able to gain in my previous organisation where the HRM team consisted of only six personnel and without a team leader. The operational manager and other team leads/managers had to exercise some HRM practices at their level which at times was conflicting with other teams highlighting the point; HRM is carried out beyond the HR department, and by parties other than HR practitioners. One challenge faced by this was that issues of employee well-being, embedded in HRM responsibilities, were neglected by senior managers as they were not well trained or inspired to carry out activities in favour of employees or whether they have the time to devote to their team members.

On the contrary to this experience, some managers tend to exercise the core HRM practices such as taking time to understand their team’s views, feedbacks and even shared experiences and in turn sharing them with the HR department. This being a personal example, the study (Keegan, Huemann and Turner, 2012) also shares an example from Renwick (2003) where he questioned whether the line managers were able to act in ways that secure employee wellbeing, and whether in seeking a more strategic and less operational role the HRM specialists might be gambling with employee welfare. Line managers might not be able to represent or share employee’s interests and ensure wellbeing at work in the same way as the HR department is traditionally expected to. This study also shed light on how line managers share more HR responsibilities than traditionally and take part in aspects such as recruitment/selection, performance appraisal, training/development and furthermore. Whereas, the project managers are also acting upon and taking more HR responsibilities as was observed in Case 4 (Keegan, Huemann and Turner, 2012) highlighting the collective competence approach discussed in the previous section as well as in the study Loufrani-Fedida and Missonier (2015). We can also observe the results of the role of HRM department as well as practices in PBOs in study by Belout and Gauvreau, (2004) where they correlated the link between a project’s success and the Personnel factor (based on the correlation analyses), however, this factor did not have a momentous impact on the success of project. It also highlighted that in a project life cycle, HR practices are carried out in the project planning stage where project leaders and their teams concentrate on breaking down projects into sections in order to designate resources, including human resources, to the project before going further with the execution. This action is a necessary operation since the HR planning for the entire project is developed at this stage using various software for simulated auditing.

Concerning the observations above, it is not surprising to think whether the HRM department and practices need to reinvent itself bringing us to the final paper; research conducted to explore the collateral effects of project-based management concerning the role of the HR department by Asquin, Garel and Picq, (2010). They focused on the aspect of the collateral effects caused by the project-based management on both the individuals and groups. Their study shows that how individuals indulged in a project face some stress-related experience which might also result in delay or overall failure of the project as well as the individuals, themselves. Understanding the findings, they identified three categories of risks namely,

  1. The isolation of individuals: where the study focused on the experience of three professionals viz. Daniel, Agnes and Alberto, showed a familiar feeling of being alone, not heard although being experts in their respective fields and the believed that they were not able to learn and progress while working in a project-based environment. They felt guilty and weakened. As is also shared by Lazarus and Folkman, (1984) is often the case when people cannot cope with the stress.
  2. The loss of collective capacities: the write followed the concept of people capabilities by Bredin, (2006), arguing that the entire organisation are being weakened and not just the individuals who are facing stress due to the structure of work. As shared in the cases of all the three individuals, the company altogether will not be able to progress.
  3. A Double-edged sword: it was highlighted that how a project could be a benefit as well as a risk for individuals involved in it. A question in the article, “Is projects a tool for individual, collective and organisational development or a new form of exploitation and domination?” (Asquin, Garel and Picq, 2010), makes one think of how the project-based management is affecting the individuals in it. Moreover, should be made sure to the HR department or the concerned personnel in the organisations.

This research and observation help us understand and argue upon the reinventing of the HR practices. Due to the emergence of the dual nature (Bigley and Roberts, 2001) in organisations, the HR system needs to more flexible and supportive of the new project-based environment in the organisations. As mentioned in the article, “By inventing and providing solutions to support dual forms of organisations, the HR function can turn into a real ‘‘business partner” (Ulrich, 1997)” (Asquin, Garel and Picq, 2010).

Conclusion –

This essay aimed to critically analyse what I, as an individual believed to be the usefulness of the four core articles in a project management role. Also, to share the key learnings gathered about the management of people at work. Reading the core articles along with other academic articles, I have learnt that human resource management (HRM) is not only important as a department or practice, but it is also a key aspect for the success of any project and in turn the organisation. A project manager needs to be aware of how to manage or deal with the team members not just in the traditional hierarchical way, but also in a personal way. The case studies discussed in the articles showed how a mismatch or even a little mismanagement of personnel could affect the individual (making them stressful and loose efficiency), the success or implementation of projects and the organisation as a whole. Even the Project Management institute includes human resource management as one of the six fundamental essential functions of project management in the official definition of Project Management Body of Knowledge better addressed as PMBOK® Guide. As discussed in the study by Loufrani-Fedida and Missonier, (2015), the organisation is also equally responsible for understanding the critical competencies of a project manager and should not interpret him or her as heroes. This approach is useful for the organisation to understand and recruit or train if required, the appropriate project manager and not the perfect. A project manager also needs to understand the work environment of the organisation and choose a suitable leadership style to help him, his team, the project and in whole the organisation to drive towards success. It was observed how the HR team help the individuals involved a project and project team to tackle with the stress and anxiety the individual face by providing or formulating solutions to support the duality of organisations. Hence, the HRM department, project manager as well as an organisation (senior managers) play a vital role, use of appropriate but flexible human resource techniques, to make a project successful. All the readings helped me to understand how the behaviour of the senior managers, project managers, team members and an individual could affect the organisation and project which in turn will help me to formulate my strategies on behaviour and leadership concerning the team or the organisation I wish to work for in future. This study further enhanced my knowledge as to how the organisations and HR techniques unfold and what possible challenges I would face being under the hat of a project manager as well as a team member.

References

  • Asquin, A., Garel, G. and Picq, T. (2010). When project-based management causes distress at work. International Journal of Project Management, 28(2), pp.166-172.
  • Keegan, A., Huemann, M. and Turner, J. (2012). Beyond the line: exploring the HRM responsibilities of line managers, project managers and the HRM department in four project-oriented companies in the Netherlands, Austria, the UK and the USA. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(15), pp.3085-3104.
  • Loufrani-Fedida, S. and Missonier, S. (2015). The project manager cannot be a hero anymore! Understanding critical competencies in project-based organisations from a multilevel approach. International Journal of Project Management, 33(6), pp.1220-1235.
  • Yang, L., Huang, C. and Wu, K. (2011). The association among project manager’s leadership style, teamwork and project success. International Journal of Project Management, 29(3), pp.258-267.
  • PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition (2017)
  • Hitt, M., Beamish, P., Jackson, S. and Mathieu, J. (2007). Building Theoretical and Empirical Bridges Across Levels: Multilevel Research in Management. Academy of Management Journal, 50(6), pp.1385-1399.
  • Belout, A. and Gauvreau, C. (2004). Factors influencing project success: the impact of human resource management. International Journal of Project Management, 22(1), pp.1-11.
  • Renwick, D. (2003), ‘HR Managers, Guardians of Employee Wellbeing?’ Personnel Review, 32, 3, 341–359.
  • Lazarus, R.S., Folkman, S., 1984. Stress Appraisal and Coping. Springer, New York.
  • Bredin, K., 2006. People capability of project-based organisations: a conceptual framework. International Journal of Project Management 26, 566–576.
  • Bigley, G.A., Roberts, K.H., 2001. The incident command system: high-reliability organising for complex and volatile task environments. Academy of Management Journal 44 (6), 1281–1299.
  • Belout, A. (1998). Effects of human resource management on project effectiveness and success: Toward a new conceptual framework. International Journal of Project Management, 16(1), pp.21-26.

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