(Name of your Institution)
Every organization has some set objectives that it aims at achieving. The role of a project manager in every organization is extremely crucial as he/she guides “organizations toward goal accomplishment.” Thus, designing the strategic moves accurately, “assigning activities that organization members” need to perform and hindering individual activities that might deviate the organization from achieving its goal are parts of the responsibility of a proficient project manager ('Role and Importance of Management', 2008).
The case study introduces us to Nick Carson who has been appointed as the project manager of a biotech enterprise project at the Parkville Victoria company. The purpose of the project was to develop software and hardware for a DNA sequencing instrument that would be used in assembling and analyzing human genome. Although this enormous profit had potentials, the three project managers before Nick could not manage the project well. When Nick became the project manager, he was assigned the task of developing a software for a DNA sequencing instrument within four months. Although he was technically proficient in the work that was assigned to him, there were other problems in the organization under his leadership.
The purpose of the essay will be to present the real problem of the discussed project, make a verification of the practicality of the problem and analyze the credibility of Nick Carson as the project manager. It will further provide recommendations on how Nick could have managed the situation, how the top management could have assisted him in harnessing his managerial skills and the necessary proficiency that Nick should have possessed in order to be considered as a successful project manager.
Thorough scrutiny of the case suggests that the inherent problem of the project was its large size. While large projects can be of different types, the common issues that they suffer from are generally the same all throughout. Uncertainty is the fundamental criticality of such projects that exist at every level and cause “actual schedules, costs, or technical performance to differ from those specified in the original project plan, and that cannot be predicted.” The case already suggests that Nick was given the position of project manager where three project managers have already failed. This again hints towards another inherent problem of the project: the planning-horizon limitation. Success of a project under a project manager is largely dependent upon “information derived from earlier work (Fox & Miller, 2006).” Thus, when new project manager starts working on a large project like the one mentioned here where other managers have failed, he/she basically recreates designs and strategies on underdeveloped details. As a consequence, the effort of the project manager always remains vulnerable to failures.
Besides these inherent problems of the project are the personal problems of Nick Carson that got revealed when he was assigned the role of project manager from his initial designation of lead software developer on the same project under the previous project managers. When the top management asked Nick to develop a software for DNA sequencing instrument on an urgent basis, he become so engrossed with the work that he could not delegate the project requirements to his entire team properly. Thus, the members of his team did not have a concise idea about the project, its proceeds, the schedules they were supposed to follow and the responsibilities they have. As a consequence, the project could not proceed as it was envisioned by Nick.
Another strong evidence of the realistic nature of this case is the presentation on Project Management from St. Norbert College. It suggests that successful project managers work as individuals only for setting “the final goal for the project.” However, they encourage group activity when it came to motivating “workers to complete the project on time ('Project Management', n.d.).” The case of Nick shows that he became too much engrossed in finding the problem in the assigned task and developing the software as instructed. He never felt the responsibility to get involved in the task as a team instead of doing it individually.
After analyzing the proceeds of the project under Nick Carson, it can be said that he is not a good project manager. Perhaps, his service as lead software developer under other project managers were appreciated, and he was made the project manager for developing the hardware and software for the DNA sequencing instrument. However, his failure to do justice with this newly assigned role proved that he did not have the multitasking abilities of an efficient project manager. While he was still excellent as a software developer, he failed to handle his responsibilities of managing his team simultaneously. The difference between a good project manager and a bad project manager is that while the former is organized in nature the latter is disorganized. Nick’s team management exhibits his disorganized nature and incapability to manage the project as a team effort (Schiff, 2013).
It has already been noted from the case study that the team Nick was supposed to handle did not understand the project’s requirements and their roles properly. This further testifies Nick’s failure as a good project manager. Since a project manager ensures that the requirements of a project have been clearly understood by all stakeholders,” he/she must be an effective communicator. The ambiguity of Nick’s team members thus suggests that he could not instruct them properly (Schiff, 2013).
The case suggests that there was large gap in the reaction of the major stakeholders regarding the project. On one hand, the top management was upset with Nick’s performance as project manager and opined that he lacked focus on the project. On the other hand, the teammates of Nick complained that they were never informed about the requirements of the project, schedules and plans of action. While a “good project manager will invest time to understand and negotiate” the relationships between stakeholders and “figure out these stakeholder's interests,” the case suggests Nick’s inefficiencies as a good project manager as he showed that he was not a good negotiator (Schiff, 2013).
Nick efficiently gave him the role of troubleshooter and problem solver as he immediately identified the problem with the task that was assigned to him. But he never understood why he was repeatedly failing to prove himself as a good project manager. The role of a good project manager is to prioritize problems as per their seriousness, identify the reasons, and immediately think about the solutions. Unfortunately, Nick could never understand that the problem that needs first priority is that the management is pinpointing towards him for not being able to manage his newly assigned role. Thus, neither the reasons for his inadequacy as a project manager were realized by Nick, nor were there any attempts of resolving the same.
The most important thing that Nick must have realized to improve the situation is whether he is being able to reach out to his team or not. He should have emphasized more upon effective communication within his team in order to know if his teammates have any doubt regarding the project. Instead of giving his team an outline idea about the project that needs to be done, Nick should have been shown more effectiveness in “talking to team members regarding task details as well as sharing management’s expectations with the team (Philipy, n.d.).” He should have depended both upon written as well as spoken words in order to ensure that the details of the project have been clearly stated to his teammates. This practice would also have made the top management aware that Nick knows his role as a project manager. The top management would also have made themselves assured that Nick himself has apprehended his role in executing the project.
It is undeniable that a transformation of designation from a lead software analyst to project manager might have come as a surprise for Nick Carson. This promotion might even have landed him into a realm of uncertainties and challenges. After becoming a project manager, he might have come across situations that were unique to him. The conglomerated effect of these factors might have made him incapable of handling his newly acquired responsibilities efficiently. But I understand that he overlooked the need to be open about the problem he was facing in this new role. Rather, he concentrated more and more on proving that he was skilled as a software developer and could execute the assigned task of developing the software for DNA-sequencer efficiently. The effort proved futile, and his shortcomings as project lead came to the forefront instead of his talents as a software expert. If he would have remembered that you should not “be afraid to ask for help if you don’t understand something or if you haven’t been exposed to a situation (Philipy, n.d.),” things would have turned in his favor.
In context to Nick’s ambiguity about the role of a project manager it can be said that the guidance of a mentor serves a lot. Nick suddenly found himself in a position that required multitasking skills, ability to manage team, work as a team as well as prove himself as an effective supervisor simultaneously. Therefore, practical suggestions on managing the situation were what Nick required. A mentor would have guided him, shared with Nick his “wealth of knowledge and experience”, and taught him practical approach of interacting with stakeholders and team members. Ability of dealing with unforeseen issues would have additionally made him serve as an efficient project leader (Philipy, n.d.).
Developing trustworthiness and dependability of the team members would have been equally beneficial in making Nick emerge as an efficient project manager. Right from the beginning of the project his way of communicating with his teammates was creating uncertainty. Thus, instead of taking extremely serious approaches simple steps like “removing road blocks, facilitating resolution of issues, and in general supporting their every need (Philipy, n.d.)” would have made Nick aware of the problems his teammates were suffering from.
The abrupt jump of Nick Carson from the post of lead software analyst to project manager was the first mistake that the top management did. The outcome was visible; on one hand, it set blow on the skill sets of Nick, and on the other hand, it made the entire team of staffs unaware of their roles and responsibilities towards successful completion of the project. Thus, holding him responsible and pinpointing him as an inefficient manager is not the right attitude of a supportive management. Approaches like these often result in making an employee even more demoralized. Therefore, the top management would have provided Nick “meaningful feedback in a constructive manner on a regular basis” that encourages him and not discourages was necessary. This would have helped Nick in identifying where was he lacking as a project manager. Eventually, he would have attempted at rectifying these flaws much before the time so that it did not interfere with the quality and submission time of the assigned project. Since Nick was supposed to serve the role of a project manager for the first time, providing him value support was also necessary for the management. The top management would have made endeavors for providing value support in the form of “equipment when existing is outdated or inefficient; emotional support in the face of (occasionally) unfair criticism; flexible support for a reasonable level of work-life balance (Lipman, 2013).”
Although the case apparently presents that Nick lacked effective communicational skills, deeper insight into the case will reveal the management’s shortcomings in communicating the needs of the project clearly. Practical cases suggest that “to ensure an employee’s career goals are aligned with the company’s goals, the company needs to be open about its strategy and future directions.” While delegating the software development assignment to Nick, the management only stressed upon the urgency of the project. It never specified how teamwork can fulfill the needs of the project accurately. Being a software developer for a long time, Nick thus concentrated on urgently delivering the project. He did not have any opportunity to understand if there is any need of “developing new skills to help explore new opportunities.” Since we learn through experiences, the management would have provided Nick accessibility to development opportunities by assigning him projects that were not urgent. Thus, the delayed deadlines of such projects would have been beneficial for exposing Nick to newer challenges of project management. Consequently, through practical experience he would have learnt how to tackle different management issues, how to work as a team and how to channelize different responsibilities of a project among the team members.
Nick was totally unaware of the fact that he was proving more efficient as a software developer than a project manager throughout the project. It is undeniably the task of management’s role to make him aware of quality of performance. But instead of making any direct accusations, the management would have followed a much healthier strategy of clearly stating his “performance expectations for the future, and at different levels of the organization.” This would have provided Nick a positive scope for self assessment (Goldberg, 2011). Eventually, he would have shown better performance with each new project assigned to him.
The most important skill that Nick required as a project manager besides his technical skills is the aptitude of understanding the vision of a project. This includes developing clear idea about the goal that needs to be achieved, the requirement of the project, “the deliverables for the project,” “the time frame” as well as “the value it will bring to the business.” After acquiring the skill of understanding the vision of a particular project, Nick should learn to gauge the scope of the project. To be precise on this, he should educate himself about the tasks that need to be accomplished “to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions.” Through repeated exposure to practical situations, Nick should also learn how to apprehend what are the potential risks of a particular project. He should simultaneously gain understanding on how he can overcome those risks. As incapability to establish effective communication with the stakeholders was a flaw of Nick was a project manager, he should learn “to communicate clearly to all stakeholders throughout the project (Philipy, n.d.).” Being the project manager, Nick will always be at the receiving end if the contribution of any of his team members is of inferior quality. Therefore, developing an internal measurement scale and accessing the quality of deliverables of each of the team members at regular intervals will help Nick in giving quality assurance of the final deliverable to the management. This practice will help in enhancing his position as an efficient project manager.
Fox, J., & Miller, D. (2006). Challenges in managing large projects (1st ed.). Fort Belvoir, VA: Defense Acquisition University Press.
Goldberg, E. (2011). 6 Ways You Can Help Your Employees Facilitate Their Career Success. TLNT. Retrieved 23 April 2014, from http://www.tlnt.com/2011/09/05/6-ways-you-can-help-your-employees-facilitate-their-career-success/
Lipman, V. (2013). 7 Management Practices That Can Improve Employee Productivity. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/06/17/7-management-practices-that-can-improve-employee-productivity/
Philipy, M. (n.d.). 8 Tips for New Project Managers. Sensible PM. Retrieved from http://www.sensiblepm.com/8-tips-for-new-project-managers/
Philipy, M. (n.d.). How to Plan a Project. Sensible PM. Retrieved from http://www.sensiblepm.com/how-to-plan-a-project/
Project Management. (n.d.). St. Norbert College.
Role and Importance of Management. (2008). Management Innovations. Retrieved from http://managementinnovations.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/role-importance-of-management/
Schiff, J. (2013). 7 Must-Have Project Management Skills for IT Pros. CIO. Retrieved 23 April 2014, from http://www.cio.com/article/726888/7_Must_Have_Project_Management_Skills_for_IT_Pros
West, C. (n.d.). Four Common Reasons Why Projects Fail. Projectinsight.net. Retrieved 23 April 2014, from http://www.projectinsight.net/white-papers/four-common-reasons-why-projects-fail.aspx