Student in Work Role
Discuss about the Reflective Paper for Change and Project Management.
I had an opportunity to work for the ABC Company in which I was involved on a project. The experience helped me learn about project life cycle, planning, HR management, and more.
In this report, I would be reflecting back on my experience with a major IT organization. The initial days went into observing what the project manager was doing. The project manager was very open to explaining and taking my inputs on anything positively which made me feel like a contributor. After working with him for a couple of projects, I was given a new project. This project was from an existing client and processes were already set. The project manager helped me as a guide.
This report would explore two major challenges of project management including strict timelines and lack of leadership. The project taken as a base for learning was a new software development project that was managed by me. My role in the project was to coordinate project activities from start to finish including requirement gathering, planning, execution, project progress monitoring and controlling.
The initial days of the project were hectic as I was unable to plan out the resources deployment as per the strict project timelines. Usually the project would take around 3 months to completion, in the particular case; the client wanted us to complete the development of the application within 2 months. He was also willing to pay more for that. However, the resources that were used to working things out in 3 months were to be buckled up to manage this strict timelines. To be able to do that keep the people motivated to work harder, we needed support from top management which was challenging. The company was going to re-structuring and new managers hired were not well informed about internal processes. This had put a burden on me to manage the project within its constraints without asking the management for intervention or provided additional resources. They were in the favour of cost cutting and thus, I had to work with the limitations of human resource ensuring that existing project team was scaling up capacities to meet project deadlines.
The module literature says that companies need to compete in the market using its operational capabilities and dynamic capabilities. Operational capabilities can be ability to respond to market needs, effective and efficient use of human resources, and reduction in working capital utilization. To be able to survive, companies need these operational capabilities. The company used resources effectively and restricted their capital expenses to remain profitable. This was rather a survival strategy that could help them succeed on the project (CDC, 2006).
However, the projects also require companies to have dynamic capabilities like identification of opportunities and threats that may come in future. The management clearly failed to identify the risks or threats that were associated with the project and that was a major delay in delivery that was caused due to lack of resources. Because of lack of support from top management, the project team was not empowered and most of the staff did not give much respect to the deadlines. At some point, even I was de-motivated and agreed to accept that the project would get delayed (Bright Hub Media, 2015).
Project mission defines what a project stands for. This includes identification of project purpose, scope and quality standards. A full realization of mission of project is hard because of high levels of uncertainty. Stakeholders also add to challenges by changing their mind during the execution (BIS, 2010).
Yet defining project mission is important for the success of the project. It allows a company communicate its strategic intensions that help in establishing control over project.
For identification of project mission, soft systems methodology, which involves consideration of different perspectives related to the project, was recommended in the module. However, this appears to be a very systematic process which was actually not practiced in the real case of project that I managed. The mission of the project was rather very simple objective of the project and not a very thought-out statement (Caltrans, 2007).
As per the module, the mission can be used for developing the scope of the project such that the scope takes the project in the direction of achieving the missions of the project. In practice, the scope of the project did help in achieving the mission. The mission statement was expanded into the scope (Divurgent’s, 2014).
Next stage is designing of the project organization which involves development of governance frameworks, internal structure, project delivery organization structure, and PMO. The company did not explore developer organization structure but contact details of key people were recorded. The company also did not define any governance structure but used some performance measurement parameters for evaluation of the project progress. The impact of lack of project governance was seen on the project at later stages of development in the product development lifecycle. Lack of project governance meant no integration between the company and developer team and thus there was insufficient involvement of stakeholders. Also, there was a lack of commitment from top management and no strategic alignment was achieved. As the importance of the project was not understood strategically for the company, for the top management, it appeared to be a very small project and thus, they did not give much attention to it. This caused delays that disturbed the schedule and escalated the cost of human resource (Morgan & Gbedemah, 2010).
Business of Projects
The project star model identifies four elements of project including structure, processes, incentives against performance, and competencies of people working as the project team. On the mentioned project, the structure of the internal organization was clearly defined as well the processes were identified. However, the team was offered any special incentives for performance. Thus, there was a lack of motivation in team. Only the leadership skills of the project manager were used to keep the spirits of the team high. However, being not so senior a person, I found it difficult to show authority and have control over the people while they caused delays (FME, 2014).
Moreover, the project team was decided on the basis of past experience of project. No competency mapping was done considering the current project. The competencies identified included understanding of application development projects. However, the competency on the front of the understanding of the industry was not considered (GDE, n.d.).
In a project organization, key roles include:
Promoter: He defines the project needs and ensures that they are met. On my project, the client organization was the financer
Financier: He provides funds for execution
Decision maker: He takes decision to push the project towards completion. My senior project manager was involved in this role.
Recruiter: I was involved as a recruiter and thus, mobilized human resources on the project.
There was no one involved from top management and thus, I faced difficulties like delays, lack of sufficient skills and less competencies in resources.
As per the module assumptions, a project board is usually setup for directing the project. They are involved in risk management, change management, ensuring commitment of resources, ensuring consistency of output with plans, and bringing effectiveness in communication. There was no specific project board that was set on the project managed by me and all these assurances were only managed by me which I found difficult to manage alone. However, my senior had been a very skilled person and had given been guidance every time I needed support to ensure smooth running of the project (InterGlobe , 2008).
The module identifies cognitive approach to risk management. Information is used for understanding the risks in better ways to increase confidence over understanding of possibility of risk occurrence. This could be used for identifying threats that could negatively affect deliveries and opportunities that could improve them. Uncertainty could affect the identification of future consequences. With effective strategic planning tools, the future could be clearly visible or alternate futures can be identified. However, in case of ambiguity, determining the future impact of current decisions is difficult (InterGlobe , 2008).
Defining Project Mission
The software development project was managed by me. I identified opportunities as well as risks that were most likely to occur. However, there were still many surprises that affected the project at later stages and decisions were to be taken accordingly (KPMG, 2013).
cyne?n framework identifies differential natures of causes and effects of such events. A simple nature would have a clear relationship identified. A complicated relationship can be understood by taking expert inputs. Complex relationships are difficult to make predictions difficult. Chaos can cause turbulence. Disorderly processes make it difficult to identify conditions. On the application development project, some relationships were simple while others involved complications. Situations that were simple were managed by me while those showing complicated were discussed with senior project manager. I can use it to identify cause and effect relationships situation (Lacaster University, 2006).
The module suggests use of four steps for risk management. These include identification of threats and opportunities, analysis of known knowns, proactive analysis to determine possibilities, and monitoring of activities throughout the project. It also suggested the use of knowledge management and event register for record keeping. On my project, only a risk register was maintained. Opportunities were only initially identified by there was no event recording that could be used for continuous improvement (Masons Thelen Reid LLP, 2006).
It was found that despite the project management discipline widely studied and practices, there are many organizations that still do not make use of the best practices of project management. In fact, some of the basic tools, assumptions, principles and practices are ignored while planning or executing projects. For instance, a project governance structure is highly ignored area despite it being the major cause of failure of most projects (Morgan & Gbedemah, 2010).
Project governance deals with policies, regulatory procedures, functions, processes and responsibilities of managing and controlling projects. Even when governance structure is not identified, the projects still have to manage these. The communication management plan would identify processes and functions of the project. In absence of a regulatory procedure, a standard process of monitoring project progress, comparing it with initial plan and controlling deviation would be used. Governance structure can formalize all processes and help in establishing control over project execution (University of Exeter, 2015).
It was also found that the mission is an important part of any project as it helps in proper identification of scope that is aligned with the organizations goal. In case the mission is not established properly, only the technical objectives of projects may be identified but their connection with the strategic objectives of the company cannot be determined. The mission of the project I worked on only defined the wide scope of the project as “development of the application ensuring that all functional and quality parameters of the client are met”. This statement did not connect with strategic goals. With a well established mission and identification of strategic objectives, senior management involvement could also be improved (UCSC, 2009).
Designing and Leading Project Organization
To work effectively, a project manager can be involved in following ways:
- Planning: He can create a sound plan considering the impacts of each planned activity on the probability of the success of the project. Thus, a project manager has to ensure that he has taken into consideration all the important factors while making a plan. A project manager can involve all stakeholders to ensure that the project requirements are clarified in the beginning. The project manager must have good knowledge of internal structures, processes and competencies of people such that resources can be distributed efficiently to get best results(U.S. Department of the Interior , 2012).
- Controlling: Project manager can play a crucial role in establishing control over the project such that it does not deviated from the plan and at the same time deliver desired results of the project. For this, project manager can identify and establish a project committee or board to establish a governance structure. He may also identify threats and opportunities, establish a procedure for monitoring and define clear responsibilities.
- Communication and Coordination: He is responsible for managing communication with team members and stakeholders. He has to identify roles, responsibilities, communication needs, and communication channels. Project manager has to use communication procedures for coordinating with people. These people include members of project team and software developer team, project financer, project decision makers and key stakeholders(Time is Ltd, 2015).
- Some theories given in the module were relevant to project situation in following ways:
- Project Mission through life cycle: The theory states that the mission of the project must be developed considering the whole life cycle of the project such that organizational assets can be best utilized throughout the project life cycle. This can be useful in formulating that is also strategically aligned with the organizational goals (The University of Manchester, 2009).
- Soft Systems Thinking: This provides a systematic procedure for thinking about complex issues of projects. This involves exploration of various different perspectives for getting a deeper understanding of the mission as well as project processes. Thus, it can be used for formulating mission statement as well as for designing processes.
- The Project Star Model: This model identified key elements of a system design including mission, scope, structures, competencies, incentives, and processes. All these areas are important to understand while managing a project. Thus, this model can be used for formalizing requirement gathering stage(TRU, 2011).
- The Project SLM: This can be used for defining project mission, creating organizational design, understanding risks and uncertainty, and bringing collaboration in the project teams. Using this model, a project manager can establish strategies for reducing uncertainties and brining coordination among teams. Further, an effective organizational structure may be identified for a stronger communication and more efficient management of project(PMI, 2015).
- Circles of influence and concern: This model can help understand the influences that can affect the project progress. Aim of a project manager is to increase his circle of influence. This model can be useful in establishing strategies for creating a governance as well as control framework such that execution of the project can be made smoother(The University of Manchester, 2009).
My key learning from the reflective exercise was:
- Project governance helps in ensuring project success
- Identification of opportunities can help company in positive ways.
- Commitment from top management is necessary as it can help in ensuring resource commitments as well as establish a control over the processes such that chances of project success can be increased
- Clear identification of mission that can link the strategic objectives of the company with the project objectives is important.
- Risks and opportunities records must be updated as the project progresses using appropriate monitoring procedures.
- Identification of structure of the delivering organization is important and it should be mapped with project organizational structure.
- Defining specific incentives for the team is important for the team to remain motivated and committed to deadlines.
- Project board plays a key role providing direction to the project and guidance to the project team as well as aligning project objectives with the strategic goals of the project organization. Thus, it is crucial that organizations identify members of the board and establish a committee(The State of Maryland , 2015).
Certain activities may be planned for managing projects in future such as:
- Establishing of project board and a governance structure
- Establishing of a process for monitoring and recording events considering both threats and opportunities
- Defining of a clear mission considering its strategic alignment to business objectives and scope
- Development of an incentives scheme for the project team before assigning them responsibilities and using the same to keep them motivated towards the achievement of goals and within timelines.
- Identification of structures of all the organizations linked through the project and mapping of different roles so as to strengthen the communication flow to achieve project success.
- Getting buy in from the top management by involving them during the planning stage itself and ensuring that their roles are clearly defined (Team FME, 2014).
This reflective exercise helped me identify gaps in current practices. I have understood that the success of project can result from a sound planning. A good plan includes identification of scope, development of governance structures, risk management planning, resource management planning, and opportunity indication. For a project to be successful, acceptance from key stakeholders including top management, employees, project team, suppliers, financer, project board, and project manager is important.
I also realized the importance of human resource on projects. Human resource serves as the most important asset of an organization that would help in achieving success on a project. Thus, while managing future projects, I will ensure that the human resource structure is clearly defined, roles and responsibilities are clearly identified and proper governance structure is used (Prosci, 2007).
Also, now I can clearly understand the importance of sound communication management practices for the success of project. The reflective study helped me understand how the project manager can use his leadership qualities for managing the project. I have also gained much clarity on different considerations and practices of project management which I would be able to use in future. There were some new tools identified such as event registers, information analytics, and governance structures and so on. I would be able to become a better project manager when equipped with these tools (Pearson, 2000).
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