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Tapping the Power Lines

'A pat on the back is only a few centimetres from a kick in the butt.'

Keywords: project management, stakeholder management, culture, organisation, relationships.

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Tapping the Power Lines [P014]

Project management is a relatively recent professional discipline. It initially developed out of the construction and defence industry’s need to plan, control and manage large, complex series of activities (projects) to produce for example, a hospital, bridge or battleship. From these endeavours arose ‘hard’ skills for the most commonly accepted project success criteria such as schedule, cost, scope and quality management. However, project management can also be seen as being about managing change, and project managers should be considered as change agents. This is a particularly relevant view when considering non-traditional, non-construction projects such as those in the sphere of IT or business process change.

Successful completion of project deliverables depends on project management of both ‘hard’ skills (time, cost, scope—1st Dimension) and ‘soft’ skills (relationship management—2nd Dimension) throughout the project lifecycle to achieve project objectives that fully address stakeholder expectations. Until recently, the focus of initiatives for improving the practice and profession of project management has been on enhancing techniques and methods for developing hard skills. The development of tools, techniques and frameworks to develop essential soft skills such as managing relationships has been the subject of a much more muted focus. Soft skills are required to facilitate the application of hard skills because it is people who realise projects and not techniques or hardware.

Project management does not occur in a vacuum. It requires an infusion of enthusiasm and commitment powered by the full range of project stakeholder energy sources, particularly from project management colleagues, that can be tapped much like connecting to an energy grid. The key is knowing how and when to connect to this organisational grid and identifying who the key connectors (stakeholders) should be. Without attention to the needs and expectations of a diverse range of project stakeholders, a project will probably not be regarded as successful even if the project manager was able to stay within the original time, budget and scope.

Author: Dr. Lynda Bourne

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