The Project Manager Styles & their Impact on the project

Maneesh Dutt, PMP & Nirmallya Kar, IPMA - Level D

September 05, 2011

In the world of project management, we give lots of emphasis on the processes, tools and techniques. Somewhere down the line we feel that we forget the key person who is making all this happen aka Project Manager. Especially in the knowledge industry which operates in a collaborative and influential environment the soft competencies of the Project Managers plays an important role in the successful completion of the projects. In this article we dwell on the soft competencies of the Project Managers and how it impacts the overall environment and completion of the project.

Referring to the famous Importance-Urgency matrix [1], it is easy to label the project manager styles into the four quadrants.

Every Project Manager has unique style of managing projects or should we say a default attitude in managing projects. This mindset of the project manager is a critical aspect in determining the success or failure of a project. A project lifecycle for simplicity can be divided into three major steps: Feasibility & Initiation Study, Execution and Project Closure. In addition, a project by definition is an endeavor to achieve a goal following some processes, tools and most importantly involving people.

Here below we look at the behavior and attitudes displayed by Project managers as described in the four quadrants:

Click here to read the first part of this article to read about The Effective Project Manager and The FireFighting Project Manager

The Ineffective Project Manager
This Project Manager is a complete opposite of the effective Project Manager. His ability to do unimportant tasks with a sense of urgency can derail a project from its intended end objective. He is the one who does ineffective things efficiently this kind of a Project Manager would have tendency to operate within a narrow band of his comfort zone working on micro tasks rather than the bigger mission of the project. Along the project cycle let us look at how his behavior impacts the project:

Project initiation & Feasibility: The Ineffective Project Manager would normally deal with the start of the project in a superficial manner. The PM may ignore using the Project Initiation as an opportunity to build a rapport with his team and the final direction of the project. Additionally the PM would not be inclined to ask the right questions clarifying the end result desired from the project; rather he would be satisfied with asking questions for which he already has the answers. An ineffective project manager may stick to the known and would not encourage innovative solutions at any stage of the project.

Project Execution: The Q3 Project Manager would invariably end up making a project plan with incorrect prioritization of tasks. The execution environment would be built around a number of trivial meetings and unending reviews with little value addition. The PM may not give due importance to formal learning’s or encourage risks taking behavior during the Project Execution hence impacting the growth of the team. At the same time micro management could also be another attribute of such a PM giving no sense of empowerment to the team.

Project Closure: In his urgency to start a next project the Ineffective Project Manager may completely skip the Closure phase or do it at a quick pace where it renders it ineffective. He may purposely avoid bringing up sticky issues for discussion during the closure phase which may challenge his style of functioning. Learning and development would almost be treated as taboo topic in such teams. The recognitions, if any, awarded by him may not reflect the reality of the contribution by the team members.

The Resource Waster Project Manager
The Resource Waster Project manager like the effective project manager is working on “Not Urgent” activities. But the big difference is that these activities are not important to the project mission thus not adding value to the desired end result. Thus project resources do get utilized but with missing or delayed the project outputs/deliverables. Along the project cycle let us look at how this PM behaves during the three phases of the PL described above:

Project initiation & Feasibility: The Q4 Project manager by nature would shun or spend the least possible time in the Feasibility study. He looks at the feasibility study as an activity which delays his execution of the project. Hence right from the start he has limited clarity of the project deliverable. He does not have the clear visibility of the outcome of the project and as consequence risks failure of the project right from the start. Even if the Project manager spends time in this quadrant it would be working on the wrong set of priorities from the customer’s requirements.

Project Execution:The importance of this phase of the Project is that the resources are consumed at the maximum possible rate working towards the predicted end of the project. The Resource Waster PM with his wrong set of priorities ensures that he is consuming resources which are not aligned to the project deliverables. He responds to the varying PM situations more from his fancies and emotions rather than keeping the big picture of the Project end in mind. The PM does not display any sense of urgency on the various project activities and as is usually low on managing commitments. As a result he slowly loses the confidence of not only his team but also his management. Amongst the least of his priorities is building a relationship with all the stakeholders.

Project Closure: The Resource Waster PM may understand the importance of Project closure phase however because of his style of functioning he would normally lack the courage and confidence to execute this activity. Even while doing a formal closure analysis he would limit himself to the surface or unimportant tasks of the project without attempting an understanding on why some things went wrong or right along the project lifecycle. He would invariably forget to recognize and appreciate the contribution of all the stakeholders towards the project success. At best his focus would be limited to a very basic understanding of the project process and tools.