What qualities or attributes must a Project Manager have?

Must a project manager be limited to monitoring and control or must be involved in strategic Project Management decisions?

A good Project Manager must a good leader, a good leader must be a good decision-maker.

Project Management is anything but universal. Projects are commonly used today in almost all types of industry, including defence, construction, electronic, pharmaceutical, chemical, etc.

A project could be the building of a house, a ship, or the development of a software program, and many others actions such as military campaigns or recovery programs from natural disasters also meet the criteria of projects. Nowadays, non-complicated projects are lucky to benefit from a lot of software packages.

In times of increased competition and globalisation, project success becomes even more critical to business performance, and yet many projects still suffer delays, overruns and even failure.

Traditional Project Management Styles

Traditional Project Management tools and techniques are based on the assumptions that well-defined information about time, cost, and resources is available. Thus, problems fundamentally dynamic, have been treated utilising a static approach and have provided Project Managers with unrealistic estimations that ignore non-linear relationships or are inadequate to the challenge of today’s dynamic environment.

Modern Day Project Management

Today, projects seem to have become increasingly common in all kinds of organisations. They are increasingly large, complex and constrained, and may involve large numbers of interested parties and professional and technical disciplines. As projects became more and more apparent in organisations, and as they had much larger amounts at stake, it became impossible to sustain them without specific and rigorous methodology. Project Management has then grown up and spread around the world to become what it is today, that is to say, a set of theories, principles, methodologies and practices, sometimes included in the standard body of knowledge as Project Management Institute and Association for Project Management; the Chartered Body for Project Management.

Project managers are also interested in finding out to what extent the Project Management profession would accommodate the needs of any industry. Business organisations are interested in finding out to what extent is the Project Management profession fragmented into industry-specific areas, or to what extent would an academic degree in Project Management accommodate industry-specific needs. Universities and other training institutions are interested in accommodating the needs of both individuals and organizations involved in Project Management.

Project Management is discussed both in Management Science and in Operations Research. Management Science, the application of the scientific method to management, tends to focus on quantitative tools and the soft skills necessary to manage projects successfully. Management Science is far from being a robust body of scientific knowledge in the way say that physics or chemistry is, in the sense that there can be reducible, repeatable, and refutable laws of management. Operations Research gives the essential scientific contribution to the success of Project Management through the development of models and algorithms.

Is Project Management a Practise or Discipline?

There has been a long debate in the management education community as to whether Project Management is a practise or an academic discipline. Project Management is more applied and interdisciplinary than other management disciplines so it is more difficult to justify the field as a distinguishable academic discipline within the academic management community.

Significant parts of Project Management have been developed along ‘theory’ lines with reasonable scientific rigour. There are examples of Project Management benefiting from scientific knowledge such as network scheduling, linear programming, dynamic programming, or Goldratt’s theory of constraints. In the Construction, Engineering, and Management industry, for instance, people learn planning, managing, and controlling engineering construction projects to meet the time, budget, and specifications. However, when it comes to the Business and Management discipline, scholars often appear puzzled and unconvinced of the notion of Project Management.

Project Management Theory

According to Lee et al strategic Project Management can be defined as the management actions that are incorporated into a project in order to meet a strategic objective but adjusting not only time, cost and resources, but also the target. On the other hand, operational Project Management can be defined as the management actions incorporated to meet a project’s target by adjusting time, cost and resources. Strategic Project Management analyses the impact on overall project performance caused by different decisions or events. After strategic Project Management is developed, operational Project Management undertakes the detailed analysis about how to adjust time, cost and resources in order to achieve a defined project strategy.

Very little research on Project Management has previously distinguished between the project type and the strategic and operational problem of various projects. The prevailing tendency among the majority of academics has been to characterise all projects as fundamentally similar. Most texts and handbooks on the management of projects are overly general including topics such as organizing, planning, budgeting, and controlling of projects. Often, such literature does not distinguish among different kinds of projects with different strategic and operational problems. As a result, the actual process of managing different kinds of projects still remains unclear and is probably less well understood.

A Project Manager in Today’s World

Today Project Managers have gained recognition and employment opportunities beyond construction, aerospace, and defence, in pharmaceuticals, information systems, and manufacturing. In this context, Project Managers must not be limited to a monitoring and reporting role at an implementation level. They must be involved at strategic levels with the possibility and authority to effectively influence the direction and course of a project. A good Project Manager must have the skills needed to make sound decisions, consistent with the global strategy of the project, taking into account, not only the relationships of the different actors involved in the project but also the possible impact of his/her decisions on project performance. In essence, he/she must be a good decision-maker, must be a good leader, and must be a good Project Manager.

José Ramón San Cristóbal Mateo. Project Management Research Group. University of Cantabria. Spain. jose.sancristobal@unican.es