It has been said that project management is different, but akin, to more general (i. e. on-going management) Compare and contrast the skills needed for general and project management The economic development, competition and the need for planning and coordination of large and complex projects have forced innovation in management theories and techniques. This need has created a space for a new position in the organogram of traditional organizations. This new post is for managing unique tasks of projects which are not similar to business-as-usual.
A project defined as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result” (PMBOK Guide, 2008, p. 5). This means that the project must be completed within limited period of time to produce a unique result. Thus the project management can be defined as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet project requirements” (PMBOK Guide, 2008, p. 6). Thus project management is an unusual management technique created to manage projects. There is a great deal of confusion about the similarities and differences between general management and project management.
While there is a clear overlap in the needed skills between general management and project management. Also, there are some distinctive skills that require attention to manage the unique nature of projects. Therefore this essay will argue the fact that project management differs from general management and there are some management skills that project managers must apply in special ways that distinguish project management from general management such as risk management, leadership and team management, conflict management and negotiation.
A general review of general management and project management literature suggests that there is a clear overlap between the skills required for both of them. For instance, Nokes & Kelly (2007, p. 16), categorized a number of skills that are required for both project and general management such as time management, HR, planning, budgeting and cost management. Similarly, Burke (2010, p. 32), lists a number of general management skills that are required in project management such as customer service, computer skills, marketing and accounts. However, general management skills are applicable in roject management but they are not sufficient for managing projects successfully.
Thus, project managers should focus on the specific skills required for project management. To begin with risk management as a distinctive skill that needs a special attention in project management rather than general management. This is because of the unique nature of projects to produce a special and new product. Creating a new service inevitably involves new processes with high level of risk and uncertainty. Unlike the repetitive nature of ongoing work which is usually similar to the work done before (Burke 2010, p. 25).
For instance, the process of manufacturing cans of beer, canning a large number of cans on daily basis as an example for on-going business. The possibility of producing cans with undesired specification and the level of risk is very low (Nokes & Kelly 2007, p. 11). Thus, the level of uncertainty and risk in on-going business is lower than the one in projects. Therefore, a different management skill needed for managing these high risk activities. According to Nokes & Kelly (2007, p. 16), managing the risk nature of projects is the main difference between project management and general management. Similarly, Burke (2010, p. 5), identify the difference between project work and day-to-day work in terms of risk and uncertainty contending that the project work involves with higher levels of uncertainty and risk. Thus, due to the high level of uncertainty and risk associated with the projects. Project managers need special skills of risk management in order to be able to manage these risky activities. Secondly, leadership and team building skills are crucial for both project management and general management. However, because of the nature of project work as team work, project managers require special skills to lead their project teams.
Furthermore, the temporary nature of project reflects on the project team to be temporary as well (Burke 2010, p. 22). Thus, it is the responsibilities of the project manager to build and lead the teamwork for every project he manages. Moreover, the process of team building is continues during the lifecycle of the project as the changes in projects are inevitable (PMBOK Guide, 2008, p. 418). A general review of the project management literature shows that there is a heavy concentration on the importance of team leadership. According to a study cited in Schwalbe (2006, p. 8), depending on a questionnaire done by one hundred project managers leadership is the most significant characteristic of effective project managers. Similarly, Nokes & Killy (2007, p. 16) and Human (cited in Fisher 2011, p996) listed leadership and teamwork skills as the most important skills in project management. On the other hand, general manager needs the leadership and team management skills (Samson & Draft 2012, p. 397) and (Hunsaker 2005, p. 11). However, with the well-defined lines of functional departments in most organizations there is no need for extensive teambuilding skills as it is required in projects.
Thus leadership and team management skills are required in both project and general management. Though, project managers should pay more attention to leadership and teambuilding skills due to the unique requirements of projects. Thirdly, conflict management skills are necessary for both project and general managers, nonetheless, project manager should pay more attention to these skills due to the conflictive nature of projects. According to Mantel et al. (2007, p. 4), the nature of projects is distinctive compared to what they called “nonprojects” as projects are usually involved with high level of conflicts.
Correspondingly, Verna (Cited in Fisher 2011, p. 995), states that the conflict in projects is unavoidable and therefor project managers need different approaches to manage these conflicts. This is because projects are implemented through a large number of contacts and stakeholders (El-Sabaa 2001, p. 1). Thus, there is possibility of conflict between different parties during all stages of the projects lifecycle (Mantel et al. 2007, p. 48). It is the responsibility of project manager to manage and deal with these conflicts and create an environment that avoids conflicts.
According to Schwalbe (2006, p. 17), conflict management is one of the required skills for high performance in project management. On the other hand, Nokes & Killey (2007, p. 16), stated that conflict management is one of the skills required for both project and general management. Furthermore, Hunsaker (2005, p. 10), lists conflict management as one of the requirements of general management. Nonetheless, general managers require relatively little time for conflict management due to the structure of business as usual organizations with clear line of authority.
Hence, conflict management is required for both project and general management. However, the high level of conflicts in project works makes conflict management one of the key requirements in project management. Finally, negotiation skill is another vital skill that project managers should focus on it in their career much more than general managers. This is because the fact that project manager should implement the projects in coordination with a large number of stakeholders without having direct authority over most of them (El-Sabaa 2001, p. 1). Correspondingly, Cleland (1964, p. 2), states that project manager needs the participation of a number of organizations who are not under his direct control. For instance, the project manager should coordinate with functional managers as they have the resources and machines, but the week point is that he is not in a position to command (Burke & Barron 2007, p. 42). Negotiation is the only way that enables project managers to cross the existing organizational boundaries. According to Schwalbe (2006, p. 17), negotiation skill is among the main requirements of achieving successful projects.
Thus, project manager is in a position with high level of responsibilities and limited authority of rank. General Manager on the other hand requires relatively little skills in negotiation. This is because general management with its well-defined managerial hierarchy has a clear line of authority that enables general manager to command with a clear legitimate authority (Mantel et al. 2007, p. 5). Thus, project manager with its limited legitimate authority should be skilled in negotiation to cooperate with different departments and organizations for getting the required resources.
On the other hand, the structure of business-as-usual organizations empowers general manager to perform his duties with clear line of authority. In conclusion, project management is a distinct branch of management and there are some management skills that project managers must apply in special ways that distinguish project management from general management. Although, there is a clear overlap in the needed skills between general management and project management. General management skills are applicable in project management, but, they need to be applies in a special ways to be appropriate with the unique nature of projects.
Project management requires a management philosophy for doing things that have not been done before, using new teams, through a large and diverse set of people across existing organizational boundaries without having direct control over most of them. Thus, the risky nature of project works requires risk management skills. Furthermore, the unique nature of projects required special human skills that enable project manager to manage and lead the teamwork efficiently, manage the high level of conflicts in projects, cooperate and negotiate with a large number of contacts without having a direct of control over them.
On the other hand, the case is different with the repetitive and fairly stable nature of business as usual works. Furthermore, clear line of authority and well-defined managerial hierarchy of business as usual organizations facilitate the communication, reduce the conflict and empower general managers to connect with different stakeholders. To meet the challenges and the complexity of controlling and managing the unique nature of projects, project managers should have a mix of skills including the skills of general management, risk management, leadership and team management, conflict management and negotiation.