Introduction in Project Management
In the business world, project management teams always find themselves in situations whereby they have to provide effective leadership in order to achieve their goals. Leaders have to make sound business decisions that will affect their ventures in a long time to come, and are one of the riskiest undertakings. There should be no second guesses, and one has to get it right the first time. According to the Corporate Education Group (2013) the survival of a leader and by extension the projects that they run, depends on the decisions that they make. Many have made decisions that do not inspire nor allow comprehensive evaluation that enables one to opt for the best choice.
In today’s competitive business world where the complexity of work needs team efforts, creative innovations and retention of clients is of utmost importance. Therefore, any decision that undermines the spirit and inventiveness of teams is counterproductive to the achievement of organizational objectives. As such, top management must be cognizant of this fact and, in their decision making they should employ all the processes and tools in problem solving guided by the impacts of their decisions and potential outcomes. Project managers should be able to provide effective leadership, add value and encourage dynamic team spirit geared towards the successful execution of projects. Decision making practices must be guided by relevant information to ensure that projects have a competitive edge in a competitive marketplace.
The Golf Course Project and Laundry Refurbishment
Project management decisions are undeniably connected and should be made at various levels of management. These include strategic, tactical and the operational levels. Demeulemeester et al. (2007, p. 292) state that ‘Project management involves the planning, scheduling and control of project activities to achieve performance, cost and time objectives for a given scope of work while using resources efficiently and effectively’.
Project managers make decisions at different phases of a project. Important strategic decisions are made before commencement of the project while the less important ones can be made as the project progresses on and can be altered. Intaver Institute (2010, p.2) in recent times, decision science continues to play an important role in project management. It concerns itself with the following issues: what needs to be done to assist project managers to make the correct decisions, how people process large amounts of information, the evaluation and selection of alternatives, the interpretation and assessment of potential events or risks. Many companies use decision analysis results to base their investment strategies. Decision science is rooted in the field of psychology and statistics, whereby the psychological aspect helps in the identification of the mental processes that enable people make particular decisions thus enabling decision-makers overcome psychological traps that negatively affect correct decision making. Statistical methods basically aid decision-makers.
Decision analysis takes into consideration risk analysis in project management and various tools and methodologies are employed to support the decision making. These include: project scheduling and portfolio management tools and techniques, qualitative and quantitative risk analysis, and project performance measurement. Decision analysis should be used as part and parcel of the workflow or process and follows a logical sequence of steps as indicated below.
Steps in Decision Analysis Process
- Decision framing
This stage involves the identification of business opportunities or problems, generating alternatives and identification of risks. Marston Lodge presents excellent opportunities for the construction of a golf course. The panoramic scenery of the English Heritage Castle and grounds together with the historical importance Manchester City that is recognized for its modern infrastructure, closeness to the Welsh border and access to Birmingham presents an excellent opportunity for investment. The flow of business operatives and abundance of business opportunities encouraged by the modern railroads, roads and international airports makes the construction of the golf course and upgrading of Marston lodge a feasible venture.
However, despite to the clear presence of good business opportunities present, it is important that to always consider that any project is bound to be faced with uncertainties in the decision making at both the tactical and operational levels. As such, uncertainties must be taken into account in order to minimize costs ‘due to the need for increased subcontractor flexibility and due to the propagation of disturbances throughout the project network with a negative impact on project milestone completion times’ (Demeulemeester et al. 2007, p. 392). These uncertainties are due to risks and should be managed appropriately. Rough-cut risk management measures are necessary at the tactical level because at this point no detailed information is required. At the operational level, the assessment of the risks becomes more complex and there is need to look at potential risks for each activity in the project. Risks can be detected by enquiring from experts in the area who have conducted similar projects before or from the risk management database (Schatterman et al. 2006). After determination of the risks, they should be addressed through various ways including; risk reduction, transfer, treatment, acceptance, and anticipation. Safety should be incorporated into the project schedules in anticipation of the risks.
- Modeling the situation
At this stage, a quantitative analysis using a mathematical model should be carried out to determine the best strategy to achieve the desired results. Models for project alternatives should be done and risks quantified. Any major threat or uncertainty to the golf course should be determined. For instance the slow pick up of business due to the recession should be taken into consideration and future market trends envisioned in the project.
After determination of the problem, priority should be assigned to processes that are of immediate importance in the creation of a resolution. This goes hand in hand with the risk assessment of project management as any potential issues and costs are tackled.
- Quantitative analysis
A decision must be made on what is the most important issue, risks quantified, assessment of new information on the project, establish what solutions are available in case of uncertainties occurring. This is done in conjunction with risk response mechanisms put in place. It is important to note that, in project management, the project team/or manager can fall into psychological traps. They include the availability heuristic whereby decision makers falsely assess the probability of a project by the ease in which a similar project was carried out. The other trap is called anchoring. This is a tendency by humans to remain close to the initial estimate. For instance, ‘project manager started thinking about the duration for an activity that had an original estimate of five days. Anchoring causes the analysis to stay close to the original estimate, so that even after the analysis is completed, the five day guess will remain the most likely estimated duration or average duration will be within a range from four to six days’ (Intaver Institute 2010, p. 3).
- Implementation, monitoring and evaluation
After a consensus is arrived at on what is of important for the project to stakeholders and senior management, a course of action is agreed upon, resources allocated and the project can commence.
To improve decision making in organizations, numerous factors are necessary. One of the most important factors is communication. Communication is the process by which decisional premises are transmitted from one member of an organization to another (Simon 1997, p. 208). For an individual to be able to make a decision, important and relevant information must be transmitted to him in order to be able to make informed decision, and in turn transmit his decisions to relevant people whose actions depend on these decision in an organization (Kunnas p.9).
Organizational teams must embrace certain strategic issues that affect the performance of an organization (King 1982; Ansoff 1980). Technological advances have ensured that organizations conduct their businesses appropriately and smoothly. According to Dutton and Ottensmeyer (1987, p.1) ‘organizations use strategic issue management (SIM) systems to enhance their capacity to adapt’. Marston Lodge faces numerous challenges including long customer queues in their check in and checkout counters, poor communication structures, and increased customer complaints. To ensure compliance to today’s trends in the business world, Marston Lodge must adopt the new technologies that ensure efficiency in the conduct of business. Duncan and Weiss (1979) and Normann (1985) argue that Strategic Issue Management systems are a set of organizational procedures, routines, personnel, and processes devoted to the perception, analysis and response to strategic issues. By embracing Strategic Issue Management Systems, Marston can ensure the smooth running of their business.
Key Personnel in the Marston Lodge Project
A. Project Manager
According to Huemann (2006) ‘the demand for the establishment of the profession “project manager” is based on the demand for professional project managers in a project oriented company. Not only in construction, engineering or information technology companies who perform external projects for customers have established the role project manager, but nowadays also insurance companies, banks, hospitals, or research institutes have a demand for competent project management personnel, who manage internal projects professionally’.
The position of a project manager cuts across all disciplines among them engineering, finance, information technology, and health. The project managers are characterized by certain common set of duties or tasks, and he/she is expected to discharge these duties in order to achieve the project targets.
- Duties/Tasks of a Project Manager
The U.S Office of Personnel Management enumerates the following duties/tasks that a project manager ought to apply:
Determines appropriate products or services with clients or customers to define project scope, requirements, and deliverables;
Develops, modifies, or provides input to project plans;
Implements project plans to meet objectives;
Coordinates and integrates project activities;
Manages, leads, or administers project resources;
Monitors project activities and resources to mitigate risk;
Implements or maintains quality assurance processes;
Makes improvements, solves problems, or takes corrective action when problems arise;
Gives presentations or briefings on all aspects of the project;
Participates in phase, milestone, and final project reviews;
Identifies project documentation requirements or procedures; and
Develops and implements product release plan
- Knowledge, skills, and competencies
The knowledge, skills, and abilities of project managers cut across all disciplines and can be categorized into three parts:
General knowledge, skills, and abilities- these include the ability to work with customers and be able to access their needs, offer necessary information, and solve their problems. Should be able to make sound decisions, committed to action, and accomplish organizational goals. Must be flexible to new knowledge, be a master of adaptation and effectively deal with ambiguities, and should be a people’s person with impeccable leadership qualities and knowledge of existing laws.
- Knowledge, skills, and abilities related to project management;
Should a person well informed in business process reengineering, contract procurement, sound financial management skills, and knowledge of principles of quality assurance.
- Technical knowledge and abilities
The project manager should be someone who is technically competent in all matters pertaining to project management issues.
Educational Requirement of a Project Manager
People with leadership skills can become effective project managers if are equipped with the necessary academic qualifications in project management. According to Project Management Institute, project managers should have excellent communication, leadership and time management skills for them to be accomplish their tasks. Of importance to note is that there is no clear cut educational path for one to become a project manager. One can undertake a bachelor’s degree in program in project management or organizational management, or alternatively, earning a bachelor’s degree from in field of study and then pursuing a post-graduate study in business management or project management can suffice. This academic qualification lays a strong background for the achievement of the necessary skills required in project management. Those aspiring to be project managers and have considerable experience in project management can sit for Project Management professional (PMP) certification exam offered by the project Management Institute (PMI).
Therefore, from the personnel at Marston Lodge, Zaynor Polowski, Margaret McDonald, and Sami Shaheed are suitable candidates for the position of project manager.
B. Senior Supplier
According to Prince2 (2013), the person charged with the responsibility of designing and building the project is called the supplier or specialist. The supplier therefore represents the people or group that design, develop, procure, facilitate and ensure that the project is implemented. He is basically someone at a senior position in the supplier organization and has executive authority. He makes decisions concerning the project on behalf of the group.
- Responsibilities of senior supplier
He is responsible for the clarification of the terms of reference pertaining to the project
Makes sure that project plans, proposals and specifications are achievable and reflect the situational circumstances.
Manages the project resources and ensures that they efficiently budgeted as per the project requirements
Responsible for the overall quality, technical integrity, reliability, integration and maintenance of the project
Works together with the project manager, sponsor, and the technical team to ensure that the project is done according to the accepted plan
- Academic qualifications of the senior supplier
The senior supplier should be someone with an educational background in project design and management.
Darren Dawes with his background experience in overseeing contractors carrying out large activities like building work is a suitable candidate.
C. Project Executive/Customer
According to Prince2 (2013) the person who is responsible for paying for the project is called the customer or executive. Marston Lodge and the 45acres it stands on are owned by Musalem Al Arami, an Oman business mogul who sets the hotel’s strategic targets and business operations. He is a man with vast network of powerful and influential friends like the local Earl. The Golf Course project is to be constructed on this prime piece of property and therefore Musalem automatically becomes the project executive.
The Importance of Product Breakdown Structures (PBS) in Project Management
According to OGC (2005, p. 293) a PBS is described thus ‘a hierarchical structure that breaks down a final product into its constituent sub-products. It helps the planner to think of what other products are needed to build the final product, and to clarify all necessary work for the creation of that final product’. A PBS is similar to a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and the difference is that while a PBS identifies products, a WBS identifies the work. Therefore, a PBS is the suitable approach as the objective of any project is the creation of products, and the work is the automatic by-product of the PBS. It therefore serves to reduce the complexity of a project or product into manageable elements to enable management teams have a clear understanding of the project, its parts and the requirements for the provision of the components.
A PBS thus aids in the identification of all the products that have to be created within the project in order to attain the overall product. There are many different types of products and each needs the creation of a PBS for each product. They include: management products (e.g. Business case, the project plan, risk log) and specialist products (e.g. new systems, new golf course). In this case focus will be on specialist products. A product that does not require to be broken down into its subsequent sub-products is called a simple product while that which is broken down into its sub-products is known as intermediate product. The PBS usually begins with the final product at the top and followed by the sub categorized components of the product.
According to Product breakdown structure (2012) ‘The purpose of this breakdown is to provide a visual representation of a product components and the relationship between those components. In turn, product planners are provided with a visual representation that provides clear understanding for what the end product requires’.
Decision analysis is a comprehensive, continuous, and consistent undertaking that supports top management in making strategic decisions concerning project management. This can be in investment decision making, the use of a new product, merger formations, or in choosing a development platform. Project management teams should be wary of psychological traps that may make the achievement of organizational objectives. In making wise decisions concerning projects, the team must be cognizant of the issues like what the team wants to achieve, the prevailing business environment, the available alternatives, and the uncertainties present. It is important that project managers don’t fall victims to mental shortcuts that seems easy to embrace but rather should employ logical processes that are based on rational techniques in making strategic decisions. For this to be possible, project managers therefore should be well equipped with the skills, knowledge and academic qualifications necessary for them to discharge their duties effectively.
Meticulous procedures should be followed in decision analysis process in order to deliver successful projects. A rushed project conceived from ‘gut feelings’ can result in costly adventures with waste of resources. Therefore, decision analysis should be a forward moving process and a team effort. For successful delivery of project products the use of Product Breakdown Structures (PBS) is important in the provision of clear visual representation of the achievement of a project undertaking. In the creation of a PBS, it is therefore pertinent that the project manager together with his team understand the final product to be achieved, the sub-products/sub-deliverables of the final product, and a collaborative effort of all project team in identifying the product.
Scientific breakthroughs and advancement in information technology innovations continue to influence the conducting of business in various fields. Companies that have embraced information communication telecommunication have a competitive advantage over their competitors. Marston Lodge faces myriad problems especially those that face workers and customers. The breakdown of the laundry, lateness in room maintenance, the rat race in keeping up customers’ demands, long queues in the check in and checkout sections, and lack of onsite activities makes it a less attractive destination for travelers. Implementing and maintaining an efficient and effective Information System can ensure that communication among the personnel is prompt and reliable, customer service exemplary. This combined with the scenic location of Marston Lodge and easy accessibility enhanced by the good infrastructure will ensure that Marston Lodge will among the best destination for people in search of leisure and business opportunities.
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