Strategic Vision and Planning Importance for Effective Project Management System

Introduction

Strategic vision and planning are important elements of any project which determine the project outcomes. The development of effective project management becomes important in the maintenance of human relationships and ensuring the physical well-being of employees so that they give the maximum contri­bution to efficient working. Historically, project success has been defined as bringing a project to a conclusion on time, within budget, and according to specifications. This mantra is so commonly heard on projects that these success criteria have been given a name: the triple constraints. Traditionally, project failure has been viewed as the inability to achieve one or more of the three constraints. For successful performance, organizations need an effective project management system that consists of control activities and effective resource allocation to achieve the overall objectives of the company.

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Project Management Defined

Project management aims to achieve specified performance within an agreed time scale and budget. The work of the project manager starts at the procurement and specification stage where details of performance, time, and cost are needed describing ways of meeting the specifications (Frame 23). Every aspect of the project is defined, e.g. quality and reliability, weight, power, etc. Other points to consider design, tendering, manufacture, construction, etc., right up to post-sales services. In general, project management is defined as “the process of managing, allocating, and timing resources to achieve a given goal efficiently and expediently” (Badiru 1). The goals of the project give a sense of direction for the activities of an organization. They give broad guidelines towards which more detailed and specific plans are directed. The important point of the project management is that “the elements are expected to work synergistically together to generate a unified output that is greater than the sum of the individual outputs of the components” (Badiru, 1993, p.1).

Different authors identify different elements of the project management such as planning, scheduling, and control or resource scheduling, budgeting and cost control, teamwork and effective leadership, conflict management, and knowledge management. The book A Guide to the Project Management underlines that the main characteristics of projects are: “performed by people, constrained by limited resources and planned, executed and controlled” (p. 4). All of them underline the importance of succession planning and control operations to achieve the specific goals of the project. Effective projects are based on the extended model of project management and describe the impact of resource scheduling, budgeting, teamwork, conflict management, and knowledge management on the outcomes of the project. Projects are carried out in organizations, which are collectives of individuals and groups sometimes working together, sometimes at cross-purposes, with individuals and coalitions pursuing their interests. Even in the best circumstances, managing people in organizations is a challenging undertaking. On projects, the challenge is particularly daunting because most projects are staffed with borrowed resources over whom project managers have little or no control. This approach is called matrix management (Blanchard and Johnson 99).

Resource Scheduling

Resource scheduling in the initial planning stage varies depending on the type of project. When planning a simple project its team may simply consider the type of resources necessary for each activity, equipment, or skill group. However, if planning a project with fewer resources, the project team may consider not just the skill types necessary but particular individuals, especially if the project has a short duration. Effective resource planning is crucial because the initial stage determines the development and outcomes of a project in general. “On some projects, collocation may not be an option; where it is not viable, an alternative may be scheduling frequent face-to-face meetings to encourage interaction” (A Guide to the Project Management 115). The times within the project when certain activities are undertaken can be altered to reduce the overload of critical resources. This approach is called resource leveling and, whilst it enables resources to be used more effectively, it may result in the project taking longer to complete if it is necessary to reschedule activities that are on the critical path. However, if the activities can be rescheduled to take account of float within non-critical activities, the overall completion date would not be affected. This approach is used when there are no time constraints and when the project has cost constraints and the teams are seeking to use the minimum number of resources in the most effective way (Frame, 65).

Where a project has time constraints, the activities need to be assessed so that additional resources can be used on the project to reduce the overall duration of certain activities. This enables the original completion date to be achieved but may increase the cost because the additional resources brought to work on the project may not be as effective as those already working on the project, or indeed may hinder them. It is important not to overestimate their efficiency (Blanchard and Johnson 82). Most project planning software enables resources to be reviewed and scheduled very effectively and, in particular, allows the project manager the opportunity to run several “what if” scenarios to determine the most appropriate solution to avoid a failure at the end. The frame (2002) comments that “the use of distributions in predicting outcomes has been applied in project management for decades and is embedded in its best-known technique: PERT. The people who created the PERT scheduling technique realized that any estimate of the duration of a proposed task is subject to uncertainty” (Frame, 2002, p. 74).

For this reason, special attention should be given to multiple resources, because it is extremely difficult to schedule resources effectively by hand. In matrix management, there are three principal categories of players: the borrowed resources who carry out project work, project managers who direct the project efforts, and functional managers who are the bosses of the borrowed resources. Each set of players has predictable complaints about the matrix (Burkun 43). Ineffective long-range planning for purchasing does not allow the project to achieve its goals. It can lead to a waste of time and poor outcomes. The project must be finished on time and close to budget. Also, the security of supplies is so important to many concerns that they have integrated backward. By adding resources it can easily be seen whether any project resources are expected to be working on a multitude of activities at any one time to such an extent that they will not be able to complete all the work on all the activities by the scheduled completion date. Ineffective resource scheduling can lead to low profits and useless unprofitable outcomes (A Guide to the Project Management 151).

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Budgeting and Cost Control

On the majority of projects where there is a very limited plant or equipment being used, the main cost will be associated with the people in the internal project team, appointed contractors, and subcontractors. It is important to note that for different organizations cost of the staff plays a different role. For instance, organizations running in-house projects do not estimate the cost of their internal staff working on the project but do esti­mate the cost of contractors and suppliers. Knack finds that “The more hours staff members spend on a project, the more expensive it becomes” (Frame 20). This is often the case not only for small organiza­tions but also many multinational companies which do not have systems in place to allow them to accurately track and record the time people spend on individual projects. For these organizations, effective cost management is crucial for the project outcomes and its profitability. “Cost budgeting involves allocating the overall cost estimates to individual activities or work packages to establish a cost baseline” (A Guide to the Project Management 89).

The outcomes of the project are driven by the normal productivity that can be expected from the type of person and equipment allocated to each activity, and the efficient allocation of the per­son or equipment is driven by the project schedule. It is important that this is tackled from a practical viewpoint and that due consideration is taken regarding normal modes of working and availability (A Guide to the Project Management The least expensive way of using people in a project is to employ the minimum number of people needed to complete the project within the target schedule. Consequently, when the project budget is produced it is important to consider the practicalities of how resources are used on the project, as well as the efficiency rates that can be expected for the type of work involved (Frame, 43).

Teamwork and Effective Leadership

Achieve efficient outcomes, it requires clear definition, good planning, clear roles and responsibilities, appropriate resources, and regular reviews as the project proceeds. At the same time, each individual needs to feel motivated and believe that he or she will benefit both professionally and personally from involvement in the project in terms of his or her contribu­tion and the team’s overall performance (Badiru 32). “It might be expected that a healthy organizational climate would be reflected by complete harmony in working relationships, and loyalty and common commitment to the goals and objectives of the organization” (Frame, 77). Building a high-performing project team is difficult, particularly if the team is virtual or working on a variety of projects and, possibly, line activities at the same time – in other words, if few work together in the same physical location and only come together for short periods of time, usually to review progress or to deal with crises. For effective project outcomes, the project team needs to very quickly develop an identity and common ground on which they can move forward. The team members do not have to like each other but they certainly have to respect each other and recognize the contribution that each makes to the success of the project (Blanchard and Johnson 83). The team also needs to have the appropriate mix of skills and access to the knowledge and information required for them to fulfill their role. Nevertheless, through­out the life of the project there will always be tension between the individual team members, the overall development and work of the team, and the achievement of the project objectives.

Conflict Management

Management of conflicts, an integral part of project management, has assumed a vital strategic role in recent years as an organizational attempt to compete through people. Today, projects can create a competitive advantage when they possess or develop human resources that are psychologically strong, and organized. To avoid low motivation and morale of employees, conflict is now treated seriously as an important aspect in the proper understanding of behavior (A Guide to the Project Management 116, 119). It has been realized that not all conflict is harmful and that perhaps a certain level of conflict is inevitable. The need, therefore, is to understand the causes of conflict and to develop constructive measures to control and use the energies released by conflict. Modern management prac­tice emphasizes the need for free expression and encourages open com­munications, especially between superiors and subordinates, and methods of continuing consultation and negotiation (Frame, 98).

Conflict resolution takes the time and efforts of employees which reduces the profitability of the project in general. Also, conflicts have a negative influence on productivity because of low motivation or aggression (frustration) of the staff. Under this type of regime it is essential that the project manager appears totally supportive of the relationship manager’s key responsibilities in helping the project align more closely with the business needs and, if han­dled correctly, the project manager can achieve considerable benefit from this set-up. Inevitably, however, there will be various types of conflict, and the project manager needs to have good negotiation skills to resolve these. The most appropriate negotiation approach is that of principle-centered negotiation, where both parties set out to find a solution that is beneficial to each (A Guide to the Project Management 132).

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Knowledge Management

Without effective knowledge management the project will fail. Proper flow of knowledge and training of employees ensures success and fixed outcomes of the project. In the light of this knowledge management is viewed as a means of communication and as a means of storing knowledge. Knowledge manage­ment is more about people than technology. A preoccupation with technology may mean that too little attention is paid to the processes (social, technological and organizational) through which knowledge combines and interacts in different ways. Organizational networks can be particularly important in ensuring that knowledge is shared. What is also required is another aspect of organizational capital: trust. For instance, knowledge required by an engineer for the post of project manager includes a knowledge of the legal bases of contracts as well as professional experience (A Guide to the Project Management 76). After procurement and specification stages, there is the tender for the con­tract, which states how performance and achievement is to be demonstrated. “Most of this material is directly applicable to leading and managing people on projects, and the project manager and project management team should be familiar with it. However, they must also be sensitive as to how this knowledge is applied on the project” (A Guide to the Project Management 107). Then a program needs to be compiled; activities are planned in the right order and departments receive orders in minute detail. Finally there is the progressing aspect which needs fast and accurate reporting back of forecasted and actual stage activities (Frame 87).

Risk Management

A major source of risk on projects is tied to difficulties in managing needs and requirements. If needs have not been identified correctly and if the corresponding requirements do not capture real needs properly, then a project is foredoomed to fail because it will produce deliverables that do not correspond to customers’ needs and wants. Proper management of needs and requirements is a necessary condition for project success. Problems begin with attempts to identify needs. One common difficulty is determining who the customers are. At first blush, the answer may seem obvious: the key customer is the individual who is paying the bill. But reflection shows that this perspective is too narrow (A Guide to the Project Management 130). Effective risk management does not happen automatically. Managers who aspire to enable their organizations to be good at managing risk must recognize that the road to effective risk management is long, twisting, and occasionally hazardous.

Beginning the journey is not difficult. It may be triggered by a one-page directive issued by the chief operating officer following a small disaster, exhorting the organization to implement good risk management practices. But after the initial hoopla, when the confetti has settled and the noisemakers have been thrown away, the journey toward effective risk management grows difficult (Burkun 66). Some of the dependent vari­able data in the forecast may be significant and may be sensitive to variations in forecasted values of other independent variables. In projects, there are techniques that may help to reduce uncertainty of the future and hence are valuable. In the area of investment decisions, probability forecasts are very important, e.g. variable estimates of future sales costs and prices will affect the estimated rates of return on capital invested in projects. Risk management is an important area of project management because it helps the project manager to locate and plan resources taking into account probability analysis and possible risks. Ineffective risk analysis leads to failure of the project and threatens its outcomes (Frame 123).

To the extent that initiatives to establish risk management capabilities take on the flavor of a fad, then a company should expect the initiatives to fail. But beyond faddism, risk management initiatives face another challenge: a large number of stakeholders in the organization may feel threatened by them and may work to water them down. To understand why these initiatives may be threatening to some people, consider what risk management processes do: they force people in organizations to approach their efforts in a deliberative fashion and to be aware of the dangers that lurk in the shadows (Kornfeld and Rupp 12). Overall, they encourage a measure of caution in decision making. Or a project team charged with installing a power generator at a large laboratory may view some of the safety procedures imposed on them as a childish waste of time. Consequently, they bypass these procedures to the extent possible. An important rationale behind risk analysis is to avoid surprises (A Guide to the Project Management 134).

Conclusion

The outcomes of the project depend upon all elements of the project and effective implementation of all parts of the plan. Resource scheduling and resource location the main keys of effective project management based on control of project and its security. All elements are interdependent and cannot be considered in isolation. For instance, better customer relations lead higher morale of staff, lower program costs result in higher profit margins. Individuals have a lot of freedom, but when they join a project their freedom is restricted and their effort must be joined with those of others to achieve organizational goals. For this reason, the project manager should take a special attention to all areas of the project and resources involved to achieve desirable and stipulated outcomes.

Works Cited

Badiru, A.B. Quantitative Models for Project Planning, Scheduling and Control. Quorum Books, 1993.

Burkun, S. The Art of Project Management. O’Reilly Media; 1 ed. 2005.

Blanchard, K., Johnson, S. The One Minute Manager. Berkley Trade, 1983.

A Guide to the Project Management: Body of knowledge PMBOK Guide 2000 edition. Project management Institute.

Frame, J.D. The New Project Management: Tools for an Age of Rapid Change, Complexity, and Other Business Realities. Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Kornfeld, R., Rupp, K. The Net Effects of the Project NetWork Return-to-Work Case Management Experiment on Participant Earnings, Benefit Receipt and Other Outcomes. Social Security Bulletin, 63 (2002): 12.

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