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Behavioral Aspects of a Project Manager

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The following paper is an exploration and analysis of the behavioral aspects of project management, as they relate to a business scenario, in which a new project manager takes over a failing project with the task of turning the project around. The project is behind schedule, over budget, and has lost team members along with morale. Areas that are explored include; the impact of organizational culture, project leadership, project team composition, and strategies for managing relationships on project teams.

Organizational Culture

The organizational culture can contribute to the negative scenario of the project being behind schedule and over budget if the culture did not fully and actively supporting the project. Organizational culture influences the selection, sponsorship, prioritization, and ultimate success of projects by setting a precedent for what the organization is motivated toward and what the culture determines is important. People support a project when they feel it is a worthwhile, a quality project and they have sufficient input in shaping initiatives. Allowing each individual the forum to express legitimate concerns about the design and implementation of the project makes the success of the project more feasible.

Cultural change is most effective when implemented by one or two people with strong ideas. This may be the head of the business, a consultant, or a designated executive or team. The best results seem to be achieved when there is a firm commitment from the top, which is communicated directly to each and every person in the business. When the employees most affected by the project understand the reason for it and believe it’s worthwhile, the project has a better opportunity for success.

Project Leadership

“Leadership implies a relationship, and you will only be able to build that relationship on mutual understanding and respect. Team members believe in their leaders when they believe the leaders have their best interests at heart” (Bucero, 2005). In project management (PM) leadership and the relationship that makes a leader are necessary tools for a successful team. A project manger needs to have the tools to realize what is working and what is not and be able to communicate, plan and motivate in order to keep the project on track. The PM needs to know when to move off course and when to push harder or just take a step back. The success of a team depends on the leadership a project leader provides. Gray and Larson (2005) suggest that there are several traits that a project manager must develop and nine of these key traits are:

1. Systems thinker

2. Personal integrity

3. Proactive

4. High tolerance of stress

5. General business perspective

6. Good communicator

7. Effective time management

8. Skillful politician

9. Optimist (p. 332-333)

When a project is in trouble, overscheduled, under budget, disgusted team members and low morale a project manager must be able to provide leadership that is understanding and is able to make changes that lead to a more effective team. The role of the leader changes due to the fact that they are now working with a failing team. Changes need to be made and this influences the way the project must be managed at this point.

Gray and Larson mention 6 contradictions in which a project manager faces:

1. Innovate and maintain stability

2. See the big picture while getting your hands dirty

3. Encourage individuals but stress the team

4. Hands off/Hand on

5. Flexible but firm

6. Team Versus organizational loyalties (p. 330-331)

Although these are only a few examples it gives a picture of how complex the PM’s position can be. In a struggling team these contradictions need to be balanced towards making the team more fundamentally sound. This in itself can be considered a contradiction when making it sound may require changing team members or reestablishing roles.

In any situation there is no clear cut answer for a project manager and what skills and traits to use in what situation. The best any manager can do is what they know and surround themselves with people that make up for areas that the manager lacks. “To be successful, project mangers must build a cooperative network

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