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Project Management and Important Skills

Introduction

Necessity of developing project management skills and knowledge. To succeed in the project planning, it is necessary to apply specific management approaches and techniques to develop a set of skills and talents. Indeed, numerous organizations make a gross mistake by allowing their best technicians and computer managers to handle different projects. Such actions are predetermined by false presumptions that those employees who have a brilliant command of programming, researching, and engineering can be engaged in the project administration.

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Certainly, programmers might be knowledgeable enough to cope with the project management, but still there are situations when expert technicians fail to work out effective strategies for project promotion. Therefore, developing management skills require a person to master written and oral communicational skills, good organizational and general administration skills. This person should be an inborn leader with natural aptitudes for controlling and tackling difficult situations (Heldman, 2003, p. 32). More importantly, this person should be able to find alternative ways for meeting the end goals of a team project. Finally, when indulging in the project planning, a priority should be given to scheduling and controlling activities and overall process.

Definition of project management. Basically, project management includes three major groups of activities directed at reaching project goals. These are consistent steps of planning, scheduling, and controlling (Lewis, 2000, p. 7). Each process should be subjected to four major project objectives that are considered to be inherent requirements for a successful presentation. The criteria are reduced to four aspects: P – good performance, C – cost and budget limitations, T – time consideration, S – defining the scope of the work (Lewis, 2000, p. 8).

The Relationships of P, T, C, and S
Figure 1: The Relationships of P, T, C, and S

The consideration of the three elements of the Iron Triangle (cost, time, and quality) imposes the idea that successful project management requires accurate planning and scheduling, a profound investigation of main objectives, and difficulties that might occur during the work. What is more important is that the project manager should be guided by an accomplished leader who can take important decisions and direct team members’ efforts into the right course. Thereby, success appears to be closely bound to the application of the acquired knowledge to certain projects. When the project is thoroughly planned, it is necessary to fulfill all tasks included for normal performance, operation, and maintenance of the project.

Project Management

Success criteria and the Iron Triangle. Success is the main aspect that stands at the end of the way of developing the project. It is obvious that some decisions should be made and a great number of aspects should be analyzed in order to detect, indicate, and eliminate all possible risks. The idea of the necessity of taking into account all possible risks and choosing a pragmatic approach in order to indicate some failures and develop an alternative option that can be used in case of failure is supported by the study by Palmer (1994, pp.182-184). Sometimes it may seem inappropriate and unnecessary to plan some actions in advance because it is a time-consuming activity, though it may save time and costs in the future. However, it is impossible to consider all risks accurately.

The success criteria can be analyzed and evaluated for many years after the end of the project, as suggested by Turner (2009). This experience can be very effective for further studies and organizations that encounter similar problems when developing projects. It is necessary to consider all possible costs and alternatives in terms of involvement of human resources, the quality of the final product or idea (regarding what the project is aimed at); all these aspects can be discussed under the Iron Triangle described by Atkinson (1999, p.338). Thus, the cost-time-quality relationships should be the basic ones with regard to the success of management.

Risk management assessment is the key to successful project management. Comprehension of different types and aspects of project management can contribute greatly to the skills of a project manager.

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Planning, in this respect, can be considered the initial step that should be made. As suggested by Flyvbjerg et al. (2005, p. 131), forecasting is important for any business activity; which seems rather natural, as planning should be posted forward while developing certain strategies. It is obvious that forecasting and planning are of great importance for each stage of project management. In particular, they are focused on defining the time, costs, and benefits involved in the objectives of project planning.

However, forecasting results scarcely coincide with the veritable outcomes of road operations. Thus, the time, cost, and quality of the final product should be evaluated with regard to the planning; which means that planning the final image of the product is necessary to consider the time and cost that is required to receive the product of certain quality. Moreover, even minor data errors can be reflected in larger political contexts, as road operations play a more important role than other kinds of transportation projects.

Inaccurate forecasts generate considerable risk leading to a failure of an infrastructure transportation project, including road and rail projects. Such figures should influence the understanding of the importance of even minor errors. Further, the decision-makers should recognize a 20% difference between the anticipated results and actual results, as the main precondition of problem appearance. Moreover, the role of project team leaders can scarcely be overestimated because they are reluctant to clarify and negotiate possible risks thus embittering the situation by consulting false forecasts (Flyvbjerk et al., 2005, p. 142). This leads to the conclusion that project managers should neglect all biased forecasts but be more focused on the validity of calculations. However, planning and forecasting are of primary importance irrespectively of the data accuracy.

This research is of great importance for future project managers to consider; as it teaches what points should be tackled to deliver a good piece of work. While investigating this particular case, one can learn about the main skills and abilities a customer can possess; which is important for future professionals as well as for the development of skills by currently performing employees. Arising from this, a planner is supposed to be open and communicative; at the same time, he/she should use effective instruments of control and domination. Finally, project planners should critically treat any kinds of forecasting, especially ones that can neglect one of the major principles of the Iron Triangle.

The necessity of placing an emphasis on communicative skills and the ability to control the process of project accomplishment are investigated by many researchers. In particular, the preconditions provoking biased situations while planning the project should be excluded (Pich et al., 2002, p. 1008). The researchers are concerned with the problem of activities mapping where the key component is the accuracy of the available information on the external setting that has an impact on such criteria as desirable performance (P). More importantly, some viable solutions for overcoming and eliminating the biases by means of predicting the contingencies might emerge. Cost, time, and quality should be placed equally into the plan of the actions to perform. Arising from recommendation, “the human planners, possibly using formalized risk management tools, will generate the ‘best’ network of activities” (Pich et al., 2002, p. 1011). Such a method is also aimed at maximizing the project payoff. Another important point that a manager should reckon with is the state of the world and the external environment. This will surely contribute much to skill improvement thus increasing planners’ proficiency. The researchers believe that the consideration of all aspects of planning directly relates to solution identification and decisions making. Therefore, a good planner should realize the role of assuming and predicting risks and any kinds of contingencies.

An effecting model for coping with project risk management is presented due to proper scheduling and execution (Chapman and Ward, 2003, p. 1051). In appendix 1, one can pursue the consistent steps for succeeding in the decision-making process that is present at all stages of the project administration. Hence, the decision determines further accomplishment of work and terms of its termination that can also influence the outcomes and quality of the entire operation. This constructive model also presupposes the application of empirical research where each track should be properly estimated and tested. It is not of minor importance to make the decisions on a rational basis even if they do not coincide with the project manager’s beliefs. There are cases when a subjective treatment of the case can lead to inaccurate outcomes.

It is necessary to highlight the important strategies for project management evaluation. In particular, project leaders should be more concerned with an accurate calculation of the outcomes of the project. They should not also rely on some external forecasts investigating very specific projects that cannot be considered to be generalized. It is also worth mentioning that the project manager should also foresee the final outcomes of the process, which means that the initial goals should strictly correlate with the final ones.

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Problematic projects and methods of coping with ill-defined goals. The concept of the Iron Triangle should be the key one regarding the goals and measures because neglecting one of the elements can lead to destroying the successful product which is supposed to be the result of the appropriate measures while planning the performance. Some projects have well-defined goals and methods, others lack the accuracy of definition with regard to either goals or methods, and the most difficult case concerns the projects when neither goals nor methods are defined properly enough to cope with the project and achieve the goals. As suggested by Thomsett (2009, p.28), who presents the six sigma approach with regard to the importance of the team leader in defining goals,

The manager, or a team leader, should be one individual, clearly identified from the onset and given adequate authority to lead the team through the project. As a project manager, you define the ultimate goal in consultation with your team, set a schedule and budget, assign specific tasks, and ensure that the project goals are met.

Thereby, it is necessary that the leader led the team towards the goal which should be initially defined. The combination of goals and methods which match each other perfectly can be observed in the study introduced by Turner & Cochrane (1993, pp.94-95); the authors present a gradation of combinations of goals and methods chosen to achieve those goals.

Some ill-defined goals are likely to lead to failure of the whole project as well as inappropriate methods chosen to reach well-defined goals can cause difficulties in maintaining the project. Thus, the large engineering projects usually typify those projects which have well-defined goals and appropriate methods; product-development projects concern those which have well-defined goals and inappropriate methods, (“these are water projects; like a turbulent stream, they flow with a sense of purpose, but in an apparently haphazard way” (Turner & Cochrane, 1993, pp.94)). As a rule, software-development projects are considered to be those with ill-defined goals but well-defined methods; this happens when the goals are clear but cannot be defined precisely. Finally, there are projects which have ill-defined goals and methods; this kind of project is typical of organizational-development projects. Anyway, the poor consideration of cost and time that should be spent on the creation of the final product should not affect its quality.

Every typical area of certain projects does not mean that the projects of definite directions should have well or ill-defined goals and methods used to achieve them. It is obvious that the article by Turner & Cochrane (1993) is aimed at developing the knowledge on types of obstacles that can be encountered while working on projects in certain areas. Planning of the project should comprise the cost and time spent on the successful operation with regard to the final quality of the product. Thus, we can divide the project into separate parts, suchlike product, organization, and work, and start planning each part, as suggested by Turner & Cochrane (1993, pp.95-96). Every aspect can be planned with regard to its peculiarities and specific activities that should be taken in order to reach success in certain areas.

It is possible to plan all aspects of the project with regard to all actions that should be taken in order to achieve success, though this can be done only when both goals and methods are well defined and are outlined to be structured accordingly. As soon as the plan is created, you can start working on the project in terms of all activities that are supposed to be included according to the previously developed plan. The more you can plan, the more time and effort you may save. However, some people do not realize the necessity of planning and consider it an ineffective and time-consuming activity, as described by Lewis (2007, pp.31-32), “all planning occurs within an environmental context. If managers do not understand this context, they are unable to develop effective plans” (Griffin, 2007, p.63). Thus, it is necessary to realize that nothing can be planned if nether goals, not methods are defined appropriately.

Escalation in decision-making. It is important to make appropriate decisions in every phase of the project. Moreover, the basic elements of the Iron Triangle should be of primary importance. Decisions make the project work. The first decisions concern the planning of the project, defining goals, objectives, and choosing appropriate methods for reaching goals including consideration of cost and time that should be spent regarding the desired quality of the final product. When the plan is ready to be brought to life, it is necessary to level up the decisions as well as requirements. Every successive phase of the project requires a higher level of decision-making and, consequently, more advanced measures to be taken.

As a rule, organizations tend to evaluate all possible risks and make decisions in accordance with approximate losses that can be suffered if something goes wrong; “escalation theory seeks to explain why organizations embark upon questionable ventures and then persist with them well beyond an economically defensible point” (Drummond, 1999, p.11). As you can see, decisions can be made gradually with regard to those areas which require decisions; and the higher is the area, the higher and more responsible are decisions needed. Ordinary employees make decisions related to their day-to-day activities at work and more important activities which may influence a group of employees or even the whole company can be made by people, suchlike project managers that stand higher in the company hierarchy than ordinary employees, though managers are not always capable of making appropriate decisions which would solve the problem, in this case, it seems necessary to develop a plan.

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As suggested by Griffin (2007, p.97), there are two categories of decisions that can be made by managers, they can be classified as programmed and nonprogrammed. Moreover, programmed decisions concern structured activities which can be observed with a certain frequency, while nonprogrammed decisions presuppose unplanned actions that should be taken almost immediately or consume my energy, time, and inspiration. “Most of the decisions made by top managers involving strategy (including mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers) and organization design are nonprogrammed. So are decisions about new facilities, new products, labor contracts, and legal issues” (Griffin, 2007, p.98). As most decisions made by project managers are considered nonprogrammed, it is important to develop certain plans in order not to fail.

As a rule, decisions that are made in the state of risk consider “the availability of each alternative and its potential payoffs and costs” (Griffin, 2007, p.98), while decisions made under certainty can be considered planned and even structured. Planned actions are not always supposed to be successful because some portion of the risk is present with regard to any questionable venture; “… biased processing may enable decision-makers to erroneously convince themselves that things are not as bad as they seem, that the problems are temporary, and, that success is imminent” (Drummond, 1999, p.12). The process of decision-making should be planned as well as the whole project in terms of possible risk, necessary facilities, and required changes.

Some decisions are discussed and analyzed, while others have a certain outline; managers can consult those plans and practice in making decisions. In this respect, a classical model of making decisions presupposes that managers should make logical and analytically based decisions from which the whole organization would benefit. The classical decision-making model can be used only when those who make decisions at the moment are aware of the situation in terms of all peculiarities and possible obstacles, and possible alternative options. Taking into account the awareness of decision-makers, it is possible to assume that such a decision is made under certainty because all information is available and a manager can make an appropriate decision.

Relevance of the staging model for project management in development contexts. As the process of planning is essential in developing projects and making decisions, it is necessary to discuss some alternative models of project management because a combination of the alternative version with a classical one can be truly beneficial. Behavioral aspects of decision-making are important as well as an approach chosen to plan the phases of developing the project. It is important to select team members and choose a team leader that would work in order to attain success in the project.

It is obvious that some projects involve a high portion of the risk, these projects can be assigned to those team leaders (project managers) that seem to be talented enough to improvise and make decisions under risk when they do not know possible alternatives and are not aware of the decision situation. As a rule, “the larger and the more complex a development project the more planning will be necessary to define work packages, to derive an organizational structure, to analyze coordination needs, and to guide the relationships between sub-teams” (Lehner, 2009, p.196). It is natural that the larger is the team, the more advanced should be the project manager that would make decisions and plan all successive activities of his/her team members. “Lack of leadership and poor team building increase the likelihood of failing considerably” (Lehner, 2009, p.196). As you can see, the author of the article under discussion managed to create an alternative approach to the concept of planning in terms of similarity of the relationships in any organization to those in a theatre.

The staged strategy is not normally used as a separate or independent method; it is rather implemented as an appropriate part that is included in order to test relationships between the team and the team leader and the ability to make decisions on a mutual basis to attain goals set in the beginning. The planning and decision-making can be considered integral parts of the project management, though they can be performed in a great number of ways. It is necessary to choose the most appropriate approach and imply it into practice. As suggested by Cleland & Ireland (2006), there are five major principles of project management that can be used while working on projects. All these principles are centered on capability maturity and competitive intelligence.

As a rule, planning and decision-making appear to be the most difficult aspects of working on the project. Planning is necessary to be done because all nonprogrammed decisions presuppose thorough planning and some improvisation, though only the most talented, mature, and intelligently competitive managers are able to cope with projects that presuppose improvisation. The model of “a judgment about the potential smooth interplay or the fit between play, director, and actors will be the ultimate criterion for the selection decision” (Lehner, 2009, p.197) can be rather effective while applying it to the real project. However, the cooperation of all team members is of primary importance after consideration of all risks.

The stage model can be used in project management in a case when all members of one team are ready to cooperate with each other and when a leader of the team (project manager) is able to make decisions that are sure to influence the successive development of the project and the attitude of all team members. All possible interactions that may appear in the process of working on the project should be thoroughly considered. Some intellectually competitive team members may disagree with decisions made by the project manager; this situation can be treated as the recognition of the leader’s authority.

Conclusion

After a thorough consideration of all project management projects, it is possible to sort out the core skills and abilities a perfect project manager should master or possess. First of all, a person should be able to adequately assess all possible risks and biases that might occur in the course of operation planning and execution. To do that, he/she must resort to calculations and data verification thus avoiding inaccurate forecasts. Second, a good project planner must find a balance between the goals and the methods of the project to maximize its payoff. This means that these points should initially be defined by the project team leader. Otherwise, ill-defined purposes can lead to inaccurate end-goal identification. Third, a special consideration deserves the decision-making process that processes at all stages of project performance. At this point, a project leader should take into account the idea that each successful decision becomes more crucial when transferring from the initial to the final stage.

Thus, a manager is always involved in an incessant chain of problem solving and solution-seeking. Fourthly, project management is often connected with the cost and quality aspects, which require a project team leader to outline the budgeting scheme. An experienced project manager should realize that each component of the operation management finds itself in interdependence with other ones. Finally, a brilliant planner should be able to handle the relations within the project working team and to meet all their cooperation needs. For this task, he/she must learn the peculiarities of the stage model of project management that will help to resolve all conflict situating between the team members.

References

Atkinson, R., 1999. Project management: cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon; it’s time to accept other success criteria. International Journal of Project Management, 17(6), pp.337-342.

Chapman, C., and Ward, S., 2003. Constructively simple estimating: a project management examples. Journal of the operational research society, October, 54(10), pp. 1050-58.

Cleland, D. I. & Ireland, L. R., 2006. Project management: strategic design and implementation. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Drummond, H., 1999. Are we any closer to the end? Escalation and the case of Taurus. International Journal of Project Management, 17(1), pp.11-16.

Flyvbjerg, B., Holm, M. S. & Buhl, S., 2005. How (in) accurate are demand forecasts in public works projects – the case of transportation. Journal of American Planning Association, 71(2), pp.131-146.

Griffin, R. W., 2007. Fundamentals of management. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Heldman, K., 2003. Project management jumpstart. US: John Wiley and Sons.

Lehner, J., 2009. The staging model: the contribution of classical theatre directors to project management in development contexts. International Journal of Project Management, 27, pp.195–205.

Lewis, J. P. 2000. The project manager’s desk reference: a comprehensive guide to project planning, scheduling, evaluation, and systems. US: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Lewis, J. P., 2007. Fundamentals of project management. New York, NY: AMACOM.

Palmer, T., 1994. A profile of correctional effectiveness and new directions for research. New York: SUNY Press.

Pich, M.T., Loch, Ch. H. and Meyer, A., 2002. On uncertainty, Ambiguity, and Complexity in Project Management. Management Science, August, 48(8), pp. 1008-23.

Thomsett, M. C., 2009. The little black book of project management. New York, NY: AMACOM.

Turner, J. R., 2009. The Handbook of Project-based Management. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Turner, J. R. & Cochrane, R. A., 1993. The goals and methods matrix: coping with projects for which the goals and /or methods of achieving them are ill-defined. International Journal of Project Management, 11 (2), pp.93-101.

Appendix 1

Estimation and Evaluation in a general decision support process

Estimation and Evaluation in a general decision support process

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