Factors for Success in Project management (PM)

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Part A

I.

Characteristics of projects within the bounds of project management are multifaceted, complex and unique and have been explored by Turner (2007) to be “temporary endeavours” that bring change by delivering an output, a new facility or asset, can be comprised of a “nexus of contracts”, and which information management is inherent. Dvir, Sadeh, and Malach-Pines (2006) describe a project to be classified as unique “organisational forms”, ’temporary organisations within organisations” that exhibit structural variability to their parent organisation and it “performs new task not done before”.

To use an exemplar, the Queensland Government rolled out a telehealth project from 2017 to 2020 aimed at improving access to healthcare state-wide; the initiative designed to improve patient care equitably outside metropolitan regions and additionally to support practitioners operating within this model (Queensland Government, 2019). The justification that this undertaking by the Queensland Government qualifies as a project may be delineated when examining the inherent characteristic of projects, notably that a project forms a complex paradigm with identifiable and integrated components with a finite lifespan,  is goal driven  and supported by a nexus of activities producing results in a systematic manner (Garvin 2000). Garvin (2000) further expounds characteristics underpinning this definition include; integration, scope, scheduling, cost quality, resource management, communication, risk, procurement and involvement of stakeholders, all which are important key features to ensure success of this example of a telehealth project. This project has financial scope within the Queensland governments total budget $15.655 billion 2019-20, with these funds being stratified across Hospital, Health Services and other organisations (Queensland Government, 2019) and a project scope of reaching 16 percent of individuals living in region zones. Furthermore this initiative satisfies the definition of a project, as it requires careful integration of a network of 200 hospitals supporting  clinical specialities, resources requiring management  and procurement involving utility of 6000 hardware and software systems, specifically it seeks to improve patient outcomes within a defined period and which has varied and complex stakeholder involvement such as patients, their families, clinicians a network of allied  health and project specific delegate involvement with the delivery of this project. Archer (2011)  defines the role of project management in healthcare programs of eHealth to concern patient safety, privacy, technical standard issues and service quality which directly connect with principles concerning deliverables, the objectives and outcomes necessary to satisfy the project lifecycle that is to deliver quality, safe and timely healthcare across Queensland (Turner, 2007).

The Queensland Government Teleheath initiative is therefore an excellent example of a project with clear goals, outcomes and scope, with a tailored budget to achieve its success, is packaged with risk an integrated need for communication and which requires the assembly of specific team members and effects varying stakeholders in its delivery over a specified time and evinces beneficial change.

Project Description

II.

Flowminder Foundation is a not for profit organisation based in Europe that works with government organisations, NGO’s and inter-governmental organisations to improve public health and welfare in low to middle income countries by releasing products such as “FlowKit” an open source analytical toolkit project  - or “global public goods”-  which utilises an enormous suite of data  from mobile phone carriers to map distributions and characteristics of populations in countries in times of crisis  by providing analyses and decision support to agencies in the interest of humanitarian issues in these regions (Flowminder .n.d.). Software projects, their management and application in essence are unique, utilitarian an relevant in the age of big data mining, with such projects having specific constraints, being instrumental and having objectives relating to people, processes tools and techniques (Cunha, Moura, and Vasconcellos 2016; Hertel, Niedner, and Herrmann 2003). Flowkit satisfies the definition of being a “project” or “global public good” because this project has undergone planning and implementation  frequently monitored and tightly controlled, had specific timeframes for rollout and testing, require teams with specific expertise to ensure its success and involved a “nexus of contracts” , was unique and requires a specific group of people assemble for the  project to complete (Cunha, Moura, and Vasconcellos 2016; Dvir, Sadeh, and Malach-Pines 2006)

II.a

The relationship between an organisations goals and its projects are interdependent. They can be exemplified within a framework that examines beneficial changes of implemented projects brought about by their intrinsic and measurable deliverables.

Examining beneficial change, with the advent of “flowkit” an open source project designed by Flowminder foundation as an analytics toolset using data generated from cell phones in disaster response situation, which has unparalleled benefit in serving the  humanitarian sector in situations bringing change in a unique way, with specific objectives during the “go live” phase such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and again in 2012 (Maxmen 2019 and Kerzner 2017), in a bid to track locations or survivors; another example, defining spatial scales of the transmission of malaria improving control programs (Wesolowski 2012). Stakeholders affected by this change are too numerous to list and have included, OCHA - Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, WFP - World Food Programme and University of Southampton UK and Financial contributions from the World Bank, the UN, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, The US national institute of Health (Wesolowski et al. 2012; Maxmen 2019 ,Flowminder n.d)

IIb

Projects inherently are complex systems, even software development projects, with a distinct architecture that can subserve an organisations goals and evince beneficial change.

The utility of “flowkit” is impressive, the benefits economically and societally unprecedented with this project linking directly to the Flowminder Foundations organisational goals beneath the mission statement “Our mission is to improve public health and welfare” and “providing priceless information for free for the benefit of those who need it most” (Flowminder, n.d.).

Kerner (2017) discusses project management growth, the relationship between projects and an organisations strategic goals where (Kerzner 2017) those organisations championing projects via project management  are able to create an environment where success is measured bidirectionally between interests of the company and with that of the project. It ensues, outcomes associated with the “flowkit” project are successful because they align both the interests and goals of the company being beneficence, public health and welfare objectives delivering beneficial innovative changes for disaster relief and other humanitarian issues upon demand. 

Part B

I.

Project success and delivery in organisations depends on many key features, but frequently relate directly to a project managers effectiveness in certain domains - their abilities, attributes and skills. Project manager efficacy can be attributed to varying levels of competencies which can be viewed as knowledge, skills, abilities, capabilities and behaviours (Liikamaa 2015; Bredillet, Tywoniak, and Dwivedula 2015; Project Management Institute 2017b) that ensure project goals and quality outcomes are achieved (Bredin and Söderlund 2013). It becomes clear after review of the literature that three of competencies stand out; emotional intelligence, negotiation skills including conflict management and technical skills and knowledge (Project Management Institute 2017b; Hauschildt, Keim, and Medcof 2000; El-Sabaa 2001; Fisher 2011; Obradovic et al. 2013; Lu and Wang 2017). These characteristics and abilities ensure the success of projects and define effectiveness of project managers in different but complementary ways.

Emotional intelligence was a term popularised by Daniel Goleman who published extensive work on the subject which he, as an author had tried to define emotional intelligence as a theory of performance based upon the four domains of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Goleman 2001). In practice the application of emotional intelligence to the sphere of project management and specifically by agents who ideally possess high levels of this, the project managers, we see great benefit of this characteristic or ability in championing human interpersonal relationships with all affected stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of projects. Leban and Zulauf (2004) defines project management to encompass planning scheduling and controlling all activities surrounding project objectives and when look through this lens  combining EQ to involve a subset of cognitive and behavioural aspects that permit a PM to recognise  and understand “others” and “self” emotions we see potential  to attain goals within this framework more readily (Nadiia and Sergey 2018; Liikamaa 2015).  To meet responsibilities associated with  a project objectives,  a project managers competencies should incorporate both rational an emotional aspects  to be able to lead projects , furthermore high EQ  - an valuable human skill - can provide inspirational motivation bi-directionally, idealise influence -which pertains to  higher standards of conduct, self-sacrifice and determination and  individual consideration equating to  support and mentoring; all which  represent forms of transformational leadership abilities of PM’s (Leban and Zulauf 2004; El-Sabaa 2001). Nadia (2018) observed that project managers scoring higher on EQ perform better with a decision making, are more effective in critical situations and area able to better manage people including their subordinates which can then promote their career growth and prosperity within their respective organisations.

Conflict management and negation skills, both interchangeable, are critical abilities or skills which a project manager should possess to effectively work in teams they lead, and which is augmented by higher emotional intelligence in their dealings with others. Conflict management is an unavoidable consequence of working in a project environment due to the inherent nature of working with individuals with competing goals, beliefs and priorities (Fisher 2011).Project management involves planning and control with time constraints within boundaries of cost, that is identifiable as a temporary organisation, within a  network of individuals that resources are allocated to evince beneficial change (Turner 2007). Operating under this premise we observe the potential for power instabilities and socio-political stances in enhancing or preventing solutions to problems where alliances with stakeholders can become dependent upon networking, negotiating solutions and identifying activities undertaken within projects are frequently dictated by negotiation and compromise, dependent upon the styles adopted to approach this (Pinto 2000). Conflict management styles according to Lu and Wang (2017) fit with a model of features that relate to care of self and others further extrapolated to include; “integrating or a win -win strategy; obliging conforming to higher concern for others and low for self; compromising which sits between obliging and win-win outcomes and which.;  dominating, imposition of views  and avoiding – where other parties considerations are ignored. Gronwald (2017) similarly defines and examines the behavioural dimensions that can co-exist and be applied in different situations with differing strength that occur in response to conflict which comprise competent, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating and compromising. It becomes evident that conflict and negotiation underlies the project management paradigm and that project managers, to achieve success in this domain need to possess these attributes or skills.

Projects within organisations can easily be identified to be complex, specific and diverse and to address this complexity project managers success in meeting objectives and project deliverables it is expected that a level of technical skill and knowledge is possessed by those leading projects. Technical skills being an understanding of a particular activity, having specialized knowledge, possessing proficiency around this, that involves processes, procedures, methods regarding technology required within their projects (Goodwin 1993). Given a large proportion of projects within organisations fall within  engineering, IT , communications and healthcare where project managers responsibilities encompass scheduling, meeting, objectives, budgeting, alternative seeking, risk assessment and leading projects  a project manager with a deficient in technical knowledge would not be able to intersect in all of these domains(Archer 2011; Ramazani and Jergeas 2015). To examine risk identification and analysis of projects technical skills permit quantification through data analysis of performance measures via audit trails to establish whether millstones re met throughout project executing and which can be compared against targets to establish project timelines are met successfully (Project Management Institute 2017a) Although not the most important skill (El-Sabaa 2001), in the absence of prior technical knowledge of the project being lead, a project manager would have difficulty understanding the rational for executing the project, would have difficulty liaising with project team members using specific language and processes or methods to achieve goals,    and would not be able to provide the necessary leadership, planning and coordination to see the project through its life cycle.

It would be an ambitious undertaking to try to identify all the necessary skills, abilities and characteristic of project managers given the diversity of organisations, projects and people that occupy them and give the nature that project managers bring a diverse skill set to each problem. Three unique and important characterises and abilities can be readily identified in the literature, as the human skill of emotion intelligence, conflict management and negotiation skills and technical knowledge and abilities.

II

When examining a case study of relocating a call centre that handles inquiries, claims for the company’s products (home, auto, renters, health, income protection and life insurance)  from Australian insurance provider to an overseas location that provides home, auto, renters, health, income protection and life insurance to Australian clients, project management including identification  on an overseas location that satisfies regulatory requirements, training needs and execution of potential redundancies become core features and scope  and deliverables of the project. To ensure success of this project, a project a manager would ideally poses specific abilities and characteristics such as emotional intelligence, conflict management and negotiation and technical skills.  Gronwald (2017) has identified that project failure in the international arena is attributable to key factors; stakeholder management, executive sponsorship, mission clarity, change and resource factors, leadership and team components, communication, skills and experience. Each of these factors when attracting project managers to lead these projects, characteristics, skill and abilities that fall within the domains of emotional intelligence, conflict management and negotiation skills and finally technical skills project misalignment and derailment would be diminished substantially.

In this case study to identify training needs, manage the redundancies and overall manage the enormous scope of organisational change in this project, emotional intelligence stand out as a characteristic or ability required of a project manager to  first satisfy client and team member needs by  managing emotions in a self-regulated way under the stresses of this change , to identify how their internal states can affect decision making and perceptions for themselves an team members given the complexity associated with this project and to ensure motivation, high standards of conduct, self-sacrifice and determination are achieved via idealised influencing and that support and mentoring  the pillars of transformational leadership are enacted (Leban and Zulauf 2004). Training team members requires the ability to inspire and provide guidance an emotional intelligence skills allow project managers to earn trust and respect of their teams (Obradovic et al. 2013)  and given training and development aligns with competency values being able to identify limitations in these to others and facilitating development sand change to meet the organisational project goals, emotion  intelligence provides the cognitive abilities to execute this(Medina and Medina 2014).

Conflict management and negotiation skills become indispensable when identifying the overseas location to ensure the project falls within budget, it is  lead effectively at the level of project teams and meeting stakeholder needs through the transition, in negotiating contracts that fulfil regulatory requirements – agreements that define provision of services by external contractors, consultants and suppliers -  and to address the complexities associated with redundancy around communication and  expectations(Goodwin 1993). Going further conflict management styles can determine whether deterioration of relationships occurs precluding further escalation of conflict due to interest competition and ultimately damaging project success, in this instance with dealing with regulatory authorities, stakeholders and dealing with large volume of employees departing the organisation (Lu and Wang 2017).

An insurance company dispensing insurance in home, auto, renters, health, income protection and life insurance would be a large organisation and complex organisation with many employees. To understand how an organisation is performing in the market and whether it is achieving its organisational goals, it would be expected that a level of technical skills would be required to analyse data around profit and loses and risk, about IT infrastructure to support these systems and understanding complexities associated with regulatory requirements. Technical skills here implies a project manager can suitably manage the transfer of all aspects of this organisation’s outputs understanding the technology underpinning it.  Gillard (2009) states “When the size of the initiative requires formation of a project team, members traditionally were chosen for their technical expertise”  thus given the size of this project and its complexity its follows that to lead a team with their own unique technical skills a project manager also literate in these, would be necessary to communicate and lead and integrate all aspects of the project.

References

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