by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Project Manager : Project Manager Dec Jan 2014
18 Project Manager •COVER STORY CHANGE OUR THINKING Given the widely varied context in which projects operate, Philip Dobson from the Centre for Innovative Practice at Edith Cowan University says project managers must allow social and cultural influences to drive project processes, rather than adhere to a standardised project management theory. In order to effectively manage complex projects, project managers must adopt a realist approach that accounts for aspects such as "the ever- changing flux of events, the complexity of social interaction and human action, and the framing and reframing of projects and programs within an evolving array of social agenda, practices, stakeholder relations, politics and power". Many existing perspectives on critical success factors fail to acknowledge the impact of context. "Such a contextual focus is needed given the concept of projects as 'unique endeavours," says Dobson. To ensure the success of a project, Dobson says project managers must allow the existing qualities of their teams and their environments to dictate the context in which they operate. Rather than adhere strictly to best practice rules, controls and guidelines outlined in theory, Dobson says causal mechanisms that have proven successful in similar project contexts should be fluidly applied. Dobson defines these causal mechanisms as "underlying entities, processes or structures that operate in particular contexts to generate outcomes of interest". He warns against considering the context of a project as simply 'location'. Context refers to social relationships, technology environments, government impositions or organisational status. Alongside formal project control mechanisms such as project milestones, budgets and systems development methodologies, project managers should rely on informal social mechanisms to achieve project outcomes. By building a strong social capital within a team, Dobson explains, managers can draw on the interactions among team members to direct, influence or regulate others to achieve project goals. Dobson also suggests adopting a structure of distributed leadership in addition to a designated leader who is formally in charge of a project. However, this leadership structure would only be feasible if an appropriate team context existed that was capable of embracing it. The project management profession needs to fully recognise the social aspects of project management. Adding that it is not sufficient to simply acknowledge these aspects, but that commitments must be made to harness their impact on project success, Dobson says project managers should base their behaviours on accumulating observations of how certain mechanisms play out in particular project contexts. CHANGE OUR CULTURES "We're at a turning point," said Nova Systems co- founder Jim Whalley in his keynote address. "We are managing the company to attract and retain the best staff, protect independence, and keep client trust." At the 2013 National Conference in Perth, WA, delegates heard that Nova is built on a strong team culture; this has been the case since the company had seven employees, and remains at the core of its philosophy now that the staff is 300-strong. With Nova collaborating on the Adelaide Desalination Plant that won the International Project Management Association (IPMA) Gold Medal for Project Excellence in Mega-Sized Projects in October, Whalley's philosophy of team culture seems to be paying off with project success. In the early days of Nova Systems, Whalley built capabilities by acquiring companies with similar values, as well as those companies' staff. "We took three standard levels of due diligence, added cultural due diligence and took on organisations with similar cultures," Whalley explains. "They had similar goals, aspirations and values." Nova also runs psychological evaluations of all new recruits and gets the psych team involved in assessing organisations before acquisition. Along the way, Nova picked up AIPM members (including National President Dr Steve Milner and SA Chapter President Sami Abou-Hamden) and increased capabilities in project management and engineering. Throughout the phase of increasing capability with the addition of diverse skills to the team, a flat structure borne from the founders' time in a defence flight test team was retained. "It's about identifying with your workmates," Whalley says. "Not taking yourself too seriously and being approachable. It's about enjoying your workplace and your workmates. It's a really strong part of our culture and what we're about." Whalley credits culture with helping an organisation deliver great project management, engineering and purpose, and believes that the necessities of great project management include great leadership. In addition to leadership and culture, project management methodology from the establishment phase onwards is vital. "Even with a global focus, we need to maintain core project management capabilities," says Whalley. "Let's make the engineers, project managers and scientists the heroes that they should be: something our kids can aspire to." Whalley left delegates with a warning: distinguish between project and organisational culture, and take care when trying to align the two. "It's important that a project has its own culture and own identity, but it needs to align with aspects of the organisation's culture," he says. "Make people [working on individual projects] feel like they are part of the small as well as the whole."
Project Manager Oct Nov 2013
Project Manager Feb Mar 2014