People do projects, and only people. Tools, techniques, software, old tried and tested management theories, new and sexy management fashions do not get projects done. People may use those things, well or badly, but fundamentally it is people who get projects done. 'How do we organize for success?' is one of the oldest questions in business, and to this day is one of the absolutely most important. Managing projects means managing people. A project manager needs to realize that this means that all those soft 'people issues' that in some organizations are rarely discussed are going to affect your ability to do your job. So let us start by looking at how projects are organized and the role and characteristics of people in projects.
Organizational structure and project structure
One would expect a colony of elderly Italian artists to settle naturally on quite a different way of organizing themselves if they were to have to cook communal meals than one would expect a class of five-year-old British schoolchildren to need to be organized for feeding purposes. The purpose of this imaginary example is simply, by means of an extreme pair of cases, to remind ourselves that the kind of people we are dealing with will affect what type of organizational structure is the most effective for a given purpose. Different times and places have different cultures and norms. The right way to organize teams of people in the 1950s stopped working in most Western countries in the 1960s, as people rebelled against authority that could not justify itself. These examples may sound distant from the everyday problems of project management, but in fact cultural matters, and the organizational factors that stem from them, are often very much behind the everyday performance issues in project management. As a project manager or sponsor, you need to understand people, you need to understand organizational culture, and you need to know what implications these have for your project. There are many reasons for this, only two of which we will set out right now. One is that culture and organizational design affect the efficiency and effectiveness of individuals and projects; that this is a factor in general management and not just project management should not for a moment allow us to ignore its central importance to project management. Another reason is that you need to be able to judge when something that worked very well in another project either will be unlikely to work in your next project, or will need modification, because the structure or the culture of the organization is different.
Let us define some terms. By organizational design or organizational structure we mean how an organization is structured into sub-units, such as divisions and departments, or, to say the same thing in a different way, how the functions within the organization report to each other up the hierarchy. Also included in what we mean by organizational structure is where ownership of various resources, especially people and capital, sits within the organization. By the character of an individual we mean their personality traits, their behavioural style, their habits of mind and dispositions to act in certain ways, especially with regard to other people. By organizational culture, we mean a similar thing to the character of an individual, but as it applies to a whole organization or a part of an organization, not to the individual 'how we do things around here'. Figure 2.1 depicts how the individual's character is affected by the character of other individuals and of the organization's style and structure, and vice versa, and how all these are also affected by society at large. You need to understand this because projects typically cut across different divisions of an organization, and different divisions will have their own styles. In investment banks, the best way to communicate with corporate finance professionals is not the same as the best way to communicate with foreign exchange spot traders; in IT the salespeople have a different culture from programmers; and in healthcare, surgeons will respond best to a different way of presenting the benefits of a project from the way that is best for nurses. What works in IBM is not necessarily what will work in Microsoft's culture, and Microsoft's view of the world can be expected to be different from Skype's or Google's. In short, understand the people you are dealing with, and their organization.
Figure 2.1. Structure and style
And around both individuals and the organization is society as a whole, which also affects individual character and organizational style and structure For simplicity we the individuals have not been drawn as being within their organizations, but nothing turns on this, and indeed many people see themselves as sitting within society, alongside the organizations for which they work, rather than the organization being a layer that stands between them and society at large
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