Project management becomes a complex phenomenon due to the enlargement in the size, variability and scope of the project. HS2 (High Speed 2) is one of the mega projects of UK Government, which is planned to connect the major cities of the country with the some isolates parts (Gov. UK, 2016). The other projects such as Crossrail, Heathrow Airport third runway, etc. are some examples of mega projects. The successful achievement of a project requires relevant skills, strategies and techniques (Marion Jr et al, 2014). In this paper, project managers’ skills and required strategies and techniques are discussed. Project manager’s role in managing HS2 and other similar projects to achieve success is also identified and discussed in this paper.
In accordance to Córdoba and Piki (2012), the success of a project largely depends on the skills of the project manager as through this, management of project from initiation to implementation, control and closure becomes more systematic. It leads to the successful completion of capital and people intensive mega projects like HS2, Crossrail and Heathrow Airport third runway. Below hard and soft skills would be critical for the project manager to ensure successful completion of project and to create maximum benefits for the stakeholders:
Hard skills mean such abilities that allow project managers to perform technical tasks. Project manager of mega project would need hard skills to develop work breakdown structure, critical path, financial plan, timeline, scheduling, reports, etc. For creating this deliverable, project manager of Crossrail project would require skills to use technical tools such as spreadsheet, Business Information Modelling (BIM), scheduling software, etc (Heckman and Kautz, 2012). This tool would facilitate planning and management of resources, which are critical to ensure project success.
According to Fisher (2011), hard skill enables project manager to plan and manage the use of resources during project initiation to closure stage. It facilitates the development of range of plans and their proper organization properly. Hard skills would be critical for the project manager of HS2 and other extra-large projects to develop objectives, to allocate roles and responsibilities, to estimate budget, to prepare timeline and to perform other management activities. For example: project manager will need to develop a risk management plan to document the possible problems in developing transport network for the high speed railway facility and their solutions. The identification and management of risk is quite critical to complete the project within estimated cost and time.
Gustavsson and Hallin (2014) state that project manager also plays critical role in scheduling work and delegating roles and responsibilities. Without the planning and management skills, manager of mega projects such as HS2 project will fail to prioritize the task and to allocate the resources including people and finance properly. Improper scheduling and misallocation of resources causes waste of critical resources that would cause project delay and cost overrun issues. Due to this, project manager would need planning and management skills to achieve this project’s main objective of delivering huge rail capacity and connectivity.
Lloyd-Walker and Walker (2012) depict that hard skills allow project managers of huge projects to document and analyze status report and to take actions. Through this, they make clear report and inform other about the expectation report. Heathrow Airport is a mega project that would be completed in the long time. The status report would be significant to access the performance of executers and consequently project success. Marando (2012) indicates that through hard skills, project manager would access the performance against the objectives to make plan for facilitating required changes. This will be effective to manage the resources throughout the project lifecycle and to ensure timely completion of project within estimated time.
Marion Jr et al., (2014) state that hard skills help project manager to conduct audits and to deliver the outcomes. Due to this, it would allow project manager of mega project such as HS2 to make informed changes in the project and to address the potential challenges. On the other hand, Fisher (2011) states the importance of hard skill for project manager to integrate the tasks of different functional units of a project. For example: civil and electrical engineers are performed different task to construct high speed railway line in HS2 project. The integration of their functions would be critical to develop the final designs of railway lines for the different paths. It could be effective to design the path of railway line in informed manner that may reduce the requirements of changes in the later stages of project. Most importantly, integration will be significant for combining the different phases of project such as planning, implementing, controlling and reporting (Córdoba and Piki, 2012). In this way, project manager will need hard skill to complete such huge projects within the estimated scope, time and fund. With this, manager will able to manage the available resources to deliver project with all estimated specification.
These skills are mainly related to the management of people rather than processes and systems. Soft skills can also be termed as interpersonal skills, which enable project manager to manage behaviour and action of people (Zhang et al., 2013). Crossrail and other projects are UK’s high profile infrastructure projects that will employ vast number of people. Project managers would need soft skill to direct, organize, control and evaluate the behaviour and actions of involved people. This will be effective to achieve expected outcomes in timely manner.
According to De Villiers (2010), soft skills mainly concerned with project manager’s ability of communicating, leading, negotiating, team building, motivating, decision making, trust building and managing conflicts. These abilities would be critical to manage the project team effectively and to attain success in project completion. Communication skills would be required to convey the complex ideas and objectives easily and clearly to the project members and to allow them to share their ideas and views openly. Through this, project manager would create a supportive and innovative working environment that could help team to deliver expected results successfully.
For example: project manager in mega project such as Heathrow Airport would be accountable to ensure efficient utilization of resources and completion of each phase in timely manner. For this, project manager would need ability to lead and motivate people (Zhang et al., 2013). Carvalho and Rabechini Junior (2015) state that leadership skill would be required to direct the actions and to motive involved people to work at their best. This soft skill allows project manager to develop sense of shared responsibility for the accomplishment of assigned tasks. De Carvalho et al., (2015) state that soft skills allow project manager to solve problems and make knowledge decisions. It would help project manager of HS2 and other mega projects in finding creative solutions of the problems and ensuring progress of the project.
According to Marando (2012), project manager needs soft skills to resolve conflicts and to build team. Crossrail and others are mega projects in which multiple teams from different functional areas will work together. Due to different experience level, functional area, cultural background, they could have different opinions and views, which may raise conflicts. Conflict resolution and team building skills of project manager would be significant to promote equity and diversity. It would create culture of team work that could encourage teams to focus on developing a high speed railway to the people for making their journey short and safe at the reasonable cost. This would develop harmony in team functions, which would improve the likelihood of project success.
The major causes of project success mainly include communication failure, lack of motivation, ambiguous understanding for stakeholders’ expectations, delay in problem solving, uninformed decisions, etc. With the soft skill, the project manager would limit the occurrence of failure causes and to manage the project more effectively. This would ensure timely execution of project tasks with the expected quality level that may help to achieve success.
Below strargties would be needed to complete the mega projects successfully and to create long run benefit for the stakeholder:
Information management: Hartmann et al., (2012) state that strategies for managing information organize the information to make it accessible for all involved parties. Due to this, project manager of mega projects would be able to provide required information to the project team in precise and timely manner. For example: by considering project objectives, different information technological tool would be arranged by project manager of Heathrow Airport to create, manage, use and share information with help of information management strategies. It would be beneficial to allow project manager to facilitate timely flow of information among the team and to ensure informed decision-making that ensures project success.
Risk Management: Project manager of HS2 and other similar projects would also be required to implement strategies for identifying, accessing and controlling the risk factors. The risk management strategies would enable project manager to create a planned response for managing risk and to reduce its negative impact on the project outcomes (Kardes et al., 2013). In accordance to Carvalho and Rabechini Junior (2015), risk management plan helps project manager to manage risk. For example: through this, project manager of HS2 would be able to manage potential obstacles and to ensure smooth flow of tasks for implementing high speed railway track within budgeted time and cost with required quality.
Communication Strategies: Tran et al., (2013) state that an effective communication strategy is critical for project manager of mega projects to create strong relations with the team members and to lead them in the direction of main objectives. Project manager would inform team members regarding what, when, how and to whom, they need to report the work status. Through this, project team could inform each other and project manager about their work status that may facilitate co-ordination and team development. It would bring clarity in communication, which may reduce conflicts and ensure proper utilization of resources (Petersen et al., 2013). This will reduce possibilities of project delay and cost overrun that may facilitate the development of competent high speed railway for the people.
Performance Evaluation and Management: According to Mir and Pinnington (2014), the strategies for evaluating and managing performance are critical to ensure successful completion of project as it helps project manager to track the performance of team members and to analyze them against the defined targets in timely manner. This helps to take required steps to improve performance level. In mega projects such as Heathrow Airport, project manager would be needed to apply performance management strategies for timely completion of day to day activities. Performance audit can be performed in weekly and monthly basis. It would help manager to access the progress of project and to deliver right quality project within estimated resources.
Change Management: In reference of the view of Bloch et al., (2013), an effective change management strategy is critical for the success of a project as it helps project managers to adapt, control and respond the changes effectively. In complex project such as HS2, the practice of identifying and managing changes is a key aspect. The change management plan would be critical in this project to employ tools, techniques and people for moving from the current to desired state within the systematic manner. This would help to incorporate the changes smoothly in project and to deliver highly desirable high speed railway to the people.
Resource Management: In mega project such as Crossrail, several resources such as people, facilities, equipments, funds, etc. are utilized. The efficient use of resources facilitates the achievement of project objectives. Through resource management strategies, project manager would able to identify and estimate the requirements of resources and to allocate and manage them as accordance to the needs of project (Bowen, et al., 2012). It could be effective to ensure implementation of project successfully.
Following techniques would be needed to employ by project manager to confirm HS2 project success:
Resource Planning and Management Techniques: According to Golini et al., (2015), work breakdown structure, Gantt chart, Critical Path Method (CPM), Network Diagrams, Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT), etc. tools and techniques are critical to plan and manage the resources in project. These techniques would allow project manager in mega projects to estimate the resource requirements for the each activity of the project and to ensure proper allocation. These above techniques would facilitate complete visualization of project and feasible analysis of required resources. Project manager can ensure availability of right resource at the right place in the right time. Budgeting technique would also be needed to include for the better management funds and to reduce chances of cost overrun (Papke-Shields et al., 2010). This would be effective to make proper utilization of resources and to ensure successful completion of project.
Techniques for Managing Communication: Project manager would need to implement techniques for managing communication. In the words of Tran et al. (2012), scheduling communication plan is an important technique for facilitating organized flow of communication between involved parties through the project life cycle. This plan will inform all members of HS2 and other mega projects regarding sources, time and content of communication that would ensure timely and accurate flow of information.
Techniques for Controlling Risk: Carvalho and Rabechini Junior (2015) depict that there are four main techniques of managing project risk such as avoidance, transfer, acceptance and mitigation. Project manager of mega projects would be needed to implement risk management strategy as accordance to the nature of potential risks. Through these techniques, an adequate response for each possible risk could be developed and documented along with the allocation of resources. This would be useful to manage the risk within the real time basis and to ensure proper completion of project. Uncertainty caused disturbance in the project flow that creates issues of delay and cost overrun (Kikwasi et al., 2013). By implementing the risk management techniques, project manager will control the uncertainties properly that would be beneficial to ensure success achievement for mega projects.
Change Facilitate Techniques: Proper planning of potential changes, their impact and management strategies would be the major technique for managing changes effectively in projects such as HS2, Crossrail, etc. Effective communication and staff education techniques would be employed by the project manager. Through communication, manager would be able to involve and motivate the staff for the required transition and to reduce resistance (Papke-Shields et al., 2010). Similarly Sarkis et al., (2010), training programs would also be arranged by project manager to develop required skills and abilities within the team members. It could be effective to encourage team for executing tasks in the direction of changed needs of such mega projects. This would allow project manager to incorporate the required changes in throughout the project life cycle effectively and to ensure its completion within estimated time and cost.
Performance Administration: Project manager would need to implement different techniques of apprising performance such as Management by Objectives (MBO), checklists, field review technique, etc. These techniques would be effective to reveal the gap between expected and existing performance level and to take timely actions for the improvement. Similarly, compensation, rewards, recognition, transfer, promotion, training, etc. techniques allow project to motivate the team to fill the performance gap (Mir and Pinnington (2014). It will ensure timely and proper execution of allocated tasks that would ensure success of mega projects.
On the basis of above discussion, it can be stated that the selection and application of right strategies and techniques along with the adequate mix of hard and soft skills, project manager of mega projects would be able to deliver the right product to the stakeholders within allocated resources. These will help project manager to ensure proper planning, implementation, evaluation and closure of the project, which is critical to minimize cost and maximise benefits for the stakeholders. Overall, the identified skills, techniques and strategies would help project manager to deliver competent and safe high speed railway infrastructure to the people, while utilizing minimum resources.
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