Effective project management practices can contribute to a company’s strategic goals and business performance by adding value to projects. The purpose of this paper is to analyze various project management practices, including leadership, conflict management, issues in cost management, and project lifecycles. It provides a comprehensive discussion of the leadership skills required in managing complex project management processes and how managers can resolve project-related conflicts. It also presents a brief description of common cost management challenges and the project lifecycle.
Leadership in project management entails a wide range of activities, including task coordination, decision-making, team management, problem-solving, conflict management, and effective planning. Project leaders need interpersonal, technical, and conceptual skills to be effective. Interpersonal skills are very instrumental in ensuring the successful implementation of a project. Interpersonal skills such as negotiation and influencing are integral in team building and supporting teamwork. Interpersonal skills include the ability to articulate one’s position, listening skills, and the awareness and consideration of different perspectives in a project (Project management institute, 2017, p. 350). The leaders can use negotiation skills to build trust among team members and collaborative relationships (Shah et al., 2016, p. 1419). These skills will be crucial in maintaining positive team relationships, guiding behaviors, motivating employees, resolving conflicts, and fostering engagement.
Technical skills give the leader the expertise and competence needed to manage the project effectively. Leaders need to understand how to interpret budgets, analyze the baseline statistical data, and project implementation strategies and procedures. Although they may not need to do the actual work, they still need some area expertise. A leader is likely to be successful if they understand how an organization works (Project management institute, 2017, p. 62). This argument is grounded on the five bases of power theory that postulates that a leader’s skills, experience, and competence (expert power) accord the leader the capacity to lead and influence his team (Project management institute, 2017, p. 63). Therefore, technical skills are fundamental in managing project stakeholders throughout a project’s life course.
Communication is integral in each stage of the project’s lifecycle. Effective communication should be interactive to provide meaningful feedback and maintain the project’s health. Misinformation or inadequate information can be detrimental as it may cause faulty assumptions that can negatively impact productivity (Chapman et al., 2017, p. 950). Therefore, leaders must transmit any information on quality expectations, time, and project scope to all relevant stakeholders. Effective communication will allow each member to understand their roles and contributions to the project’s success. Another advantage of effective communication skills is that it accounts for cultural differences, ensuring positive cross-cultural working environments. Most importantly, it allows leaders to manage stakeholder engagement through effective performance reporting and information distribution.
Integrative leadership is crucial in creating and maintaining cross-sector collaboration and encouraging collective action across various boundaries. Conceptual skills can enable a leader’s capacity to manage these divergent practices and structures. A leader with conceptual skills can analogically reason and see the whole picture hidden in assumptions. The leader is driven by divergent and innovative thinking that can create new solutions for opposing ideas. This way, the leader will achieve organizational ambidexterity and reconcile conflicting stakeholder interests by exploring new capabilities and exploiting the existing ones.
Conceptual skills play a critical role in successfully implementing change. A leader needs to interpret events and effectively communicate the change to give meaning to stakeholders. Sense-making is a cognitive act that involves giving meaning and rationalizing what is happening in the organization. Empirical research has shown that sense-making mediates motivation and is integral to its efficacy in the workplace (Weir et al., 2020, p 2). The studies postulate that employees get motivated when they assign meaning to events, environments, and experiences. An effective leader will effectively influence the meaning constructions of their employees to accept organizational change.
The common causes of project conflicts include unrealistic project schedules, resourcing issues, conflicting stakeholder interests, and personal conflicts. Underestimating the project’s scope and unforeseen project dependencies can cause scheduling invisibility and inaccurate estimates. The inaccuracies in scheduling can cause conflicts, such as employees feeling pressured to deliver substantial workloads within a limited time (Ahmed and Anantatmula, 2017, p. 193). In contrast, project managers feel that the employees are wasting time by not meeting the deadlines. Conflicts from administrative procedures occur when project stakeholders have different opinions on how the project should be managed, tradeoffs, and performance specifications.
Resourcing issues arise from conflicts in manpower resourcing, equipment and facilities, cost, and capital expenditures. Budget and cost estimates needed to support various project areas are also familiar resource conflict sources (Ahmed and Anantatmula, 2017, p. 194). Personal conflicts result from interpersonal issues, including conflicting working styles, cultural differences between team members, and obscure role boundaries. Due to the projects’ multifaceted nature, terminating one team’s tasks may depend on others’ completion. Therefore, ineffective communications can lead to silo working and prioritization conflicts that may delay the project’s delivery. Participants might have conflicting views on task sequence and which tasks need to be prioritized over others.
There are five major conflict management styles: avoiding, accommodating, collaborating, compromising, and competing. Avoiding involves ignoring the conflict by retreating from the situation or postponing solutions to allow involved parties to solve the problem by themselves. The accommodation technique entails giving in to the other party’s demands to maintain harmonious relationships (Özyildirim and Kayikçi, 2017, p. 6). This strategy emphasizes focusing on agreement points rather than differences. Compromising involves reaching a consensus by partially meeting the demands of each involved party (Project management institute, 2017, p. 63). Each party must be willing to concede part of their demands to attain a middle ground with the other team.
In the competing strategy, none of the parties concedes to the demands of the other party. One party will force its views on the other party resulting in a win-lose situation. Collaboration strategy, when implemented correctly, will always result in a win-win situation (Project management institute, 2017, p. 349). It involves having an open dialogue and taking into account multiple viewpoints and differing perspectives. The involved parties will then reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
Cost Management Problems
Cost management involves controlling and improving a company’s business practices and activities to achieve optimal value at low costs. The process incorporates collecting and analyzing cost information and monitoring costs to assist in decision-making. According to Banker et al. (2018), the common cost-management problems include cost forecasting, inadequate support for inter-organizational cost management, and failure to identify improvement opportunities. Cost forecasting helps project managers to estimate the probable or anticipated costs of a project. This way, project managers can inform clients of the financial commitment expected before any work is undertaken (Parker et al., 2017, p. 150). However, most cost forecasting is marked by inaccurate estimates, leading to incorrect project pricing.
Accessing historical information needed to estimate complex projects’ costs may not be readily available; hence, cost estimation gets difficult. Also, practical cost estimation relies on the project managers’ understanding and technical expertise of the project (Kujala et al., 2014, p. 52). However, this technical expertise can be restricted depending on the complexity and scope of the project. Thus, managers can make inaccurate cost estimates of purchased products, engineering, commissioning, and project management depending on their expertise and project complexity. This situation can lead to cost overruns and unreliable cost plans. According to Kujala et al. (2014, p. 53), project managers sometimes use data from previous projects that may have included the cost of inherent waste. Using such information can lead to missed opportunities to decrease project costs in future projects. Project managers need to apply intensive planning to attain accurate projections of a project’s cost.
Another problem with cost management is the lack of support for inter-organizational cost management. Currently, many companies use the traditional supply chains where the relationships between suppliers, companies, and customers are crucial for success. These multi-tier supplier networks can incur additional transactional costs that will move high up the supply chain to the customer. According to Banker et al. (2018, p. 190), the customer bears the most significant cost burden of this multi-tier relationship. Firms must seek the lowest price in each transaction because goods and services from these supplier organizations account for the most substantial single expenditure. Techniques such as total quality management can positively influence the cost and quality of products/services in such multi-tier supply chains.
Project Lifecycle and Its Importance
There are four key stages in project management: initiating, planning, execution, and closing. Project initiation involves acknowledging the project and why it needs to be undertaken. The initiation stage incorporates conducting a feasibility study to identify the business problem a project is expected to address (Ahmed and Anantatmula, 2017, p. 195). The managers identify the project’s scope, deliverables, stakeholders, and vision statement at this stage. The next phase, the planning stage, involves creating a project plan, estimating budgets, developing workflow diagrams, and gathering resources. The project plan will outline tasks, dependencies, timeframes, and activities. The budget is created by estimating the material, equipment, and labor costs.
The execution phase involves putting the project into motion. The project plan is implemented, and its leader ensures the project’s progress and control are sustained through effective leadership skills. The leader ensures adequate information flow and that the sponsors and stakeholders are informed of the project’s status. Throughout the project, the leader needs to ensure constant monitoring to ensure that quality standards are met and project activities align with the goals (Ahmed and Anantatmula, 2017, p. 195). The closure phase involves providing the project’s deliverables and determining its success. Then, the project manager hands over the project to the clients or operators. A project’s lifecycle provides comprehensive oversight of the entire project. It determines the project’s scope and helps the managers to focus on what is essential. Project managers can use the framework to guide the implementation process.
Project leaders must possess interpersonal skills, technical skills, and conceptual skills to manage complex processes effectively. Interpersonal skills will enable the leader to address complex human interactions and relationships during the project. Having technical skills will give the leader the power to influence and manage all relevant stakeholders. Conceptual skills are needed to motivate employees and inspire their acceptance of the change. The sources of conflicts in projects include unrealistic project schedules, resourcing issues, conflicting stakeholder interests, and personal conflicts. Managers can resolve these conflicts through accommodation, avoiding, competing, collaboration, and compromising. The typical cost management issues include cost forecasting, inadequate support for inter-organizational cost management, and failure to identify improvement opportunities. The project lifecycle entails initiation, planning, execution, and closing.
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