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What is the value of people management to project management?

| January 20, 2017


People skills and their value to project management have become a substantial topic of debate as the international community develops business strategies. This essay examines the project management field with a focus of evaluating the importance of the human element. The evidence presented demonstrates that developing strategies are relying more often on an adaptive framework that incorporates heavy human resources and relations efforts with positive results. This work will be of interest to any person studying the field of project management.

1 Introduction

The question of how important people skills are in project management efforts has become a growing topic of debate (Morgeson et al, 2013). Seemingly once overlooked, the elements of human resources and the potential to encourage a higher rate of performance suggest an emerging innovative nature among the leaders of the business community. Beginning with a base overview of project management efforts, this essay works to illustrate the importance that the ability to effectively manage people can have on any form of project.

2 Project Management

The commonly held definition of project management is the entire creation and control of a specific aim made up of several interlocking elements including planning, acquisition, motivation and resolution of day to day issues (Lock et al, 2013). This definition outlines the expectation that the project manager is the person in control of any individual effort, making each of the decisions that this persons makes critical to the nature of the underlying project. There are a wide range of management choices to be made from the very first, with   including incremental, iterative, phased and lean making each element fragile (Lock et al, 2013). With each separate method of implementation there is a real focus on creating a strategy that is effective at managing resources as well as successfully reaching deadlines and achieving goals. In order to achieve this first step and reach a positive conclusion, the skill of efficiently utilising resources, including employees and human resources, must be a cornerstone of strategy (Larsen et al, 2013). This revelation suggests a tacit support for the inclusion of the human element at every level of emerging project planning theory. Yet, with this rising recognition of value and potential in the human resources element, the question of why previous generations did not associate such potential becomes a question.

Two central approaches to project management have come to encompass the field; Traditional and Agile (Kerzner, 2003).  With the names signifying the defining parameters of each avenue the traditional has been the most used and recognised process with the Agile form coming to represent the need to remain flexible, or adaptable in the face of modern competition and circumstances (Kerzner, 2003). The Agile method is based on the traditional approach with an increased emphasis on the associated human elements that contribute to the trait of adaptability (Kerzner, 2003). As the case study of ITNET in the UK in 2003 suggested that the addition of soft skills or increased human resources capacity adds a great deal in area of motivation to any on-going project (Cowie, 2003). This is suggestive that t at the turn of the century there was a building recognition of human resources skill value as well as the need to maintain this level of skill in the developing systems in order to enhance success opportunities.

Of the several approaches offered, the traditional method has been commonly associated with a general project management application (Pandey, 2008).  This avenue consists of five well recognised principles that are expected to be met, with each area directly associated with employee, or human, oversight. Initiation, design, execution, monitoring and completion make up the most common stages of any project (Pandey, 2008). In every area this argument suggests that there is a basic need for human resources, and therefore there rests the potential for streamlining and improving performance. This is highly suggestive of the condition that there is a valid supposition for the inclusion of human resources in a progressive strategy.

2.1 Processes

Creating a starting point for any project, the initiation process marks the moment that the base nature and effectiveness of the effort is determined (White et al, 2002). This requires a thorough understanding of the complexities of the task at hand as well as complete knowledge of the associated timetable and available resources. The placement of a quality person adds to the potential for a project to succeed from the moment this evaluation and determination takes place (Hiriyappa, 2009). This stage outlines the needs of the project as associated with the operating elements, which in turn is directly impacted by the choices of the person in charge (Hiriyappa, 2009), suggesting that this initial decision to put a person in place could be among the most critical of project management accomplishments.

The planning and design stage of any project is directly responsible for developing the underlying strategy that takes into account every element (Kerzner, 2003). This suggests that again, effective decision-making qualities and the capacity to identify positive properties in the associated employees allows for a smoother execution of strategy. Further, the human element of estimation and risk planning is directly associated with the personnel in place, which in turn can determine the success or failure of any project (Larsen et al, 2013). The evidence is suggestive of the demonstration that human resource decisions at this level reflect the needs of the project and assist in determining how well the effort is undertaken.

The stage of execution follows planning, which in turn, requires an effective human resource effort in order to ensure that the standards of the developing project (Karjewski et al, 1999). This is an indication that components, such as direct management, quality control and long term planning, must be efficiently addressed at this stage, requiring human skills. This stage cannot be effectively concluded without testing the implementation efforts, which in turn demands the presence of leadership (Morgeson et al, 2013). Closely tied to the final stages of the traditional approach to project management, the execution stage leads to the control and monitoring of any project (Morgenson et al, 2013). This process of measurement and assessment require knowledge, experience and skill in order to properly operate, which requires a well-placed person, or team, with the inherent capacity to meet these standards (Greenbert et al, 2005). Lacking an effective human resource placement, there is the real potential for a project to be diminished or halted all together, making this area once again one of pivotal importance.

The final stage of the commonly held process is closing, or the true ending of the effort, with final closing and contract closure (Andersson et al, 2013). As each area of the project is judged complete and the terms of the contracts have been acknowledged, the leadership to efficiently tie up every remaining task is vital (Lock et al, 2013). This suggests that effective human resource skills at this juncture enable a far better understanding and capacity to complete and close out a project.

As the evidence in the argrument demonstrates, there is a need for human resource considerations at every stage of the project management process. At each level the critical decisions needed require thoughtful and well-rounded people skills that has the inherent capacity to add a tremendous amount of positivity to any project.

2.2 Methodologies

With the science of project management continuing to develop over the course of time, there   are several different approaches used in the effort to attain success (Lock et al, 2013). Clear differences in needs and goals make the choice of methodological tool essential to the project .Since its creation in the mid 1990’s the Prince2 has provided an output-oriented project management framework that has been used by many in the business world (Andersson et al, 2013). The Prince2 concept of management has been utilised by the Cheshire Constabulary in a positive manner dating from the year 2010 (Day, 2010). This system is credited with allowing the project to succeed and improve focus and overall results, yet at the same moment the case study acknowledges the support and human resources that were innate to the success of effort (Day, 2010). This is suggestive of the fact that human skills were needed during the effort.  This perception that the framework allowed the leadership to remain on course and succeed in Cheshire, supports the need for an effective system.  Yet, as Larsen et al (2013) argues in his project management work, the developing field of business requires new skills, which in turn continues to make the area of human resources essential to operations such as the Cheshire Constabulary.

The Agile project management method employs an enhanced human component in order to attain goals and reach success (Larsen et al, 2013). Used more often in the world of technology and creativity, the Agile approach is different from the traditional planning method in that it is made up of many smaller elements combined, making it nearly impossible to plan beforehand (Larsen et al, 2013). The Agile project management process has been utilised at several high level projects that required creative and adaptive thinking with the inherent ability to find solutions outside of the norm. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, uses the Agile method in their Sentinel Project to a notable success, demonstrating the effectiveness of the process (Wernham, 2012). During the course of this effort, the Agile system was credited with recognising the potential in the employee’s and providing the means for leadership to make the most of it (Wernham, 2012). This evidence suggests that the incorporation of increased human relations ability increases the capacity of the effort to succeed, even in a very high stress environment.  A second example of the Agile project management system finding traction in the modern world is found in the company Mastak (Somal, 2013). The need for an adaptable platform that with the ability to incorporate international opportunities, led to the decision to use the Agile approach. With the development and conclusion of the initial project, the Agile system was credited with providing the company the knowledge to produce what their clients needed through a better appreciation of the human element (Somal, 2013). This application of enhanced human resources to aid in the communication and day to day interaction with consumers to increase use, suggests that the area there potential in this area to a low cost method of enhancing production.

With each method, the utilisation of human resources and leadership is vital to the success of the project. This is suggestive that the developing methods such as Agile will become more prominent as the need for adaptability continues to grow.

2.3 Human Resources Skill Set

New and developing skill sets are necessary in order to accommodate the evolving area of project management and human resources (Miller, 2013).  New skills, including sharing the vision and making workshops available, begin to play a role in developing communication (Miller, 2013). Further, the opportunity to assess needed change allows for the leadership to anticipate the needs of their employees, which in turn must be carried out in planning for these needs to be met (Miller, 2013).  This requirement for adaptability is best demonstrated by the leadership, which in turn provides impetus for others to be influenced, thereby creating the needed environment (Miller, 2013). Finally, there should be a continual effort of communication education aimed at making the most of every personnel opportunity, thereby enriching the entire effort. At every step of these suggested enhancements rests the base requirement of increased psychological engagement with the employee’s in order to make the project possible

3. Conclusion

The question of how much importance people skills are in the project management effort has been assessed in the body of this essay with several interesting results. Efforts from the turn of the century illustrate a growing awareness of the need for increased employee outreach and communication. This trend is further supported by the additional case studies presented throughout the first decade of the century highlighting the success of project management methods using increased human resource outreach. The developing world of international business, with software, internet concerns and banking leading the way, are demanding a more adaptable method of project management, which in turn requires managers and employees that have the capacity to change on a moment’s notice. As this essay has shown, the importance of people management to the overall project is as essential as the presence of resources and funding.  In the end, the evidence presented in this essay clearly suggests that lacking a primary component, such as people management skills, creates the potential for a diminished project.

4. References

Andersson, L., Jackson, S. and Russell, S. (2013). Greening organizational behaviour: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 34(2), pp.151–155.

Cowie, G. (2003). The importance of people skills for project managers. Industrial and Commercial Training, 35(6), pp.256–258.

Day, M. (2011). A Case Study: The Cheshire Constabulary Case Study. APM Group, 1(1), pp.1-15.

Greenberg, J. and Colquitt, J. (2005). Handbook of organizational justice. 1st ed. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hiriyappa, B. (2009). Organizational behavior. 1st ed. New Delhi: New Age International.

Kerzner, H. (2003). Project management workbook to accompany Project management – a systems approach to planning, scheduling and controlling, eighth edition. 1st ed. New York: Wiley.

Krajewski, L. and Ritzman, L. (1999). Operations management. Reading, MA ua: Addison Wesley.

Larsen, T. and Olaisen, J. (2013). Innovating strategically in information and knowledge management: Applications of organizational behavior theory. International Journal of Information Management, 33(5), pp.764–774.

Ling, K. (2009). prInCE2® 2009 pilot Case Study. Prince2, 1(1), pp.1-5.

Lock, D. and Scott, L. (2013). Gower handbook of people in project management. 1st ed. Farnham, Surrey: Gower Publishing.

Miller, D. (2013). Putting a people focus into project management. Project Manager Today, 1(1), p.1.

Morgeson, F., Aguinis, H., Waldman, D. and Siegel, D. (2013). Extending corporate social responsibility research to the human resource management and organizational behavior domains: A look to the future. Personnel Psychology, 66(4), pp.805–824.

Pandey, D. (2008). Rural project management. 1st ed. New Delhi: New Age International (P) Ltd., Publishers.

Scott, N. (2010). Case Study: Using ITIL® and PRINCE2® Together. Axelos, 1(1), pp.1-10.

Somal, V. (2013). Agile Project Management empowers teams at Mastek. APMG International, 1(1), pp.1-3.

Wernham, B. (2012). Agile Project Management for Government Case study: Case study: The Success of the FBI Sentinel Project The Success of the F. Agile Business Conference, 1(1), pp.1-5.

White, D. and Fortune, J. (2002). Current practice in project management—An empirical study.International Journal of Project Management, 20(1), pp.1–11.

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