Support, Cooperation, and Training for the Project Manager
By John Reynolds
No matter how experienced, competent, enthusiastic, and intelligent the person chosen for the job of project manager, he or she cannot expect to operate effectively alone, without adequate support and cooperation. This includes the willing cooperation of all staff engaged on the project, whether or not they report to the project manager in the line organization. It also includes support from higher management in the organization, who must at lest ensure the provision of finance, accommodation, facilities, equipment, manpower, and other resources when they are needed, and the availability of suitable clerical or other supporting staff. Just as those working on the project need to be properly motivated, so does the project manager, and supportive higher management who show constructive and helpful interest in the project can go a long way to achieve this. They can also help in the longer term by providing opportunities for training as new techniques or management systems are developed.
A person who is responsible for the overall allocation and progressing of project tasks will inevitably be called upon to decide priorities or criticize progress. The project manager must often arrange for the issue of work instructions in the full knowledge that he or she has no direct authority over all the departments involved. In a line and function organization, departmental managers alone are responsible for the performance, day-to-day management and work allocation within their own departments. I have even known cases where departmental managers have told project managers to keep out of their departments. In such circumstances the project manager’s influence can only be exerted as reflected authority from higher management, without whose full backing the project manager must be ineffective.
The main show of authority which the project manager can wiled stems from his or her own personality and ability to persuade or motivate others. In these enlightened times discipline no longer implies the imposition of rigid authoritarian regimes or management by fear through the constant threat of dismissal or other punitive action. Mutual cooperation and established job satisfaction are the more likely elements of an effective approach, especially in the long term. There will, however, be occasions when firm discipline has to be exercised – when, in the last resort, the full backing and support of higher management must be available as a reserve force which the project manager can call upon in any hour of need.
Sometimes it would be apt to include project managers in that group of individuals described as ‘human dynamos.’ There will be times when the apathy or inertia of some project participants has to be overcome by an electrifying injection of enthusiasm. The output of any dynamo, however, may be weakened if it is switched into an inefficient or wrongly connected circuit. The astute project manager will soon recognize any wasteful shortcomings in the project organization. If this happens, and an alteration in the organization can be proven necessary, the project manager should be able to rely on senior management to authorize and implement the change. Higher management, after installing the project manager, must provide continuous support and encouragement and work with him or her to create an ideal project management environment.
John Reynolds has been a practicing project manager for nearly 20 years and is the editor of an informational website rating project management software products. For more information on project management and project management software, visit Project Management Software Web.
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