Three Project Managers with Distinctly Different Roles

1 The site manager of a housing development

‘I am in charge of the construction of the buildings you see around you [he gestured with his hand to the mixture of partially and fully completed properties] and of making sure they go from this stage [he indicates a pile of drawings and building schedules] to the point where we can hand them over to the sales people to sell. Most of the work is supervisory, ensuring that orders are placed and materials arrive on time, people turn up, do the job properly and get paid for it at the end of the week. There are always arguments between the various tradespeople to resolve and problems just get dumped on the desk.

Some of the toughest problems come with the people you have to work with. Some of them will do anything to try to get one over on you – they’ll tell you a job is finished when you can see it is only half done. Unless you go and check it yourself you’re in trouble. Also, they don’t give a damn for my schedule.

How do you get a roofer, at four o’clock in the afternoon when it is raining rather heavily [not the words actually used] when you know he has a long drive home, to get back on the roof and finish the job he is doing so that other jobs which rely on this being completed can start at eight o’clock the following morning? It wouldn’t be the first time we had to block his car in with a pallet of bricks to stop him leaving.’

2 Implementing Total Quality Management the quality director

‘The quality director was appointed with the brief to introduce Total Quality Management (TQM) to the company. It was his responsibility to put the proposal as to how it could be done, and then to carry it out. As he described at the outset of the project “[this] is one of the most complex projects that we could undertake at this time”.

The complexity came because the project would hopefully change the way that everyone in the company thought and worked [i.e. both attitude and procedures]. This would have to be done through consultation, training and the demonstration through piloting small-scale improvement activities, that the move towards TQ was worthwhile.

The initial phase as part of the proposal process was to carry out a company-wide quality audit to determine attitudes, knowledge and current practice. The results paved the way for the carrying out of targeted efforts where needed most.

The first phase of execution was to take the board of directors of the company on awareness training – showing them how working under a TQ environment would benefit them, and what changes would be needed. The next level of management were then trained and so on down the hierarchy until the middle management level. T

hese managers then trained their own people – a process known as “cascading”. The project to introduce the new philosophy to the company took several years, and has now moved on to become an accepted way of working. The quality director was initially involved in the management of the introduction process, where the employees and suppliers needed to be convinced that this was a good route for the company to take. His role then became one of project sponsor of a variety of improvement projects, which may be considered as sub projects of the main one.’

3 Project management in finance management system implementation

‘The main roles of the job include:

  • organisation – from the design of the system to determining support issues and providing training
  • anticipation of future requirements of the system
  • monitoring of progress of the implementation
  • communication and information – providing progress reports to local team members and national common-interest groups
  • audit – ensuring the housekeeping, procedures and system security are in order

The initial system design work involved coordinating with external system designers, the providers of the software and the in-house IT group. Our local area network (LAN) needed upgrading to run the new system. Other organisational issues were the role that consultants would play in the system design and training of users and the allocation of the budget between activities.

Anticipation was required as the requirements of the system would change over its life. For example, higher-level monthly indicators of financial performance would need to be provided where they had not been needed before. In addition, a management accounting system would be required to provide budgetary controls.

The monitoring system we used for the project was PRINCE. This provided a basic set of planning tools, and we filled in the blanks on the planning sheets. A team was set up to monitor progress against the plan.

Training was one area where I was personally involved with the users, showing, them how to use the system. People are very frightened of technology and do not always grasp immediately ideas you think are very simple. This is where the greatest attribute of the project manager was needed in plenty – patience.’

 

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