Here today – Gone tomorrow

Project Managers come and go, but their decisions will impact the people that use the output of their projects for a long time.

They may well bring the project in on time, to budget and at the right quality and then they will be off to their next project, irrespective of whether or not the benefits continue to be delivered. Is that what really meets the requirements of the business or the users of the project?

In the manufacturing industry, the decisions about what projects to do are usually taken by senior managers or owners, whether unilaterally or through the encouragement of ideas from everyone in the organisation. It is not the project manager that usually decides on the project, therefore the decision as to whether or not it is the right project is not the project manager’s responsibility. Once appointed, however, it is the way the project manager runs the project which determines whether or not it is successful.

A large manufacturing project will determine the success of the business, the satisfaction of employees and quality of products. It will ensure the safety of all. It is therefore important to open up strong lines of communications and build strong relationships users of equipment, technical experts in the business and at suppliers. By working with all those involved and building relationships with them early in the project, the project manager will get a good understanding of how everyone currently works, the problems they have and their ideas on how to solve them, be they technical issues or organisational issues.

Involving everyone impacted by a project will mean it will have a better chance to deliver a solution which meets both business and employees’ requirements.
Having done that, the project manager can then develop the project plan in order to include potential changes to the project that had not been taken into consideration when the project was first set up. These then need to be discussed with the steering group and a plan of action agreed to ensure the project benefits are achieved.

To be able to communicate effectively the views and concerns of employees affected by the project, the project manager has also to build good relationships with the steering group and senior managers, for it is they who will have to sign off major changes to the project as a project develops. Often, these concerns and problems will arise once the project is underway, especially if it is a confidential project that cannot be openly shared prior to its announcement.

Setting aside the business reasons for initiating a project, by taking into account the views of the people using and maintaining the equipment the project manager has a much better chance of delivering a project which not only meets the needs of the business but will also be sustainable, as the people who will be responsible for running the manufacturing line will be more likely to take ownership, make it work and achieve greater job satisfaction.

The project manager can then go on to the next project, wherever that may be and begin again, knowing that she/he has done a good job. The benefits the project was set up to achieve are being delivered long after the project manager goes.