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Mind Games: Project Management And Interpersonal Psychology






     Modern project management (PM) is a very young discipline, dating back to the 1950s. It arose from several different fields--engineering, civil construction, architecture, and heavy defense. As a discipline, project management dealt with these very concrete, result-oriented industries through a bevy of charts, models, diagrams, and number-crunching sessions. Indeed, the traditional approach to project management breaks down a job into development stages--focusing on the project, rather than the people around it. But modern project managers cannot rely solely on charts; they must also know how to be a team leader, engaging and shaping the people who will make the project a reality.

Project managers are often hired as consultants, coming in as independent operators to ensure things run smoothly. While each stage is eventually put into action, a project manager is also an expert at planning, and at organizing resources and people. More than just a comprehensive plan is created by a proficient project manager: excellent communication skills are of prime importance for him or her. As a project manager, it's your job to liaise with the stakeholders--they are the ones with money and resources on the line. They are important members of the project, and it's vital that you engage them and acknowledge their needs.

As an outsider coming in to a company, a project manager must have leadership skills. When people know you very well it can be all the more difficult to manage them; a degree of flexibility is definitely an asset for someone that wants to inspire strangers to follow one's lead. It's tough to come in to a situation where you are given full responsibility for the success of a project, but almost no authority over the resources or decisions. It's known frequently as the "project manager's dilemma." There's a very thin line that must be walked between asserting leadership and overstepping bounds; you must know how to advocate for yourself, establish credibility, and build effective relationships with those above and below you on the hierarchy. Sometimes a regular part of the job is to have projects executed without the okay of higher authority, but that is frequently a given in project management.

While a lot of PM vocabulary concerns the tasks at hand, those tasks are often carried out by people--and any established project manager will tell you that it's not enough just to know where to put them. It's vital that you have a good understanding of team dynamics, and choose a group of people who can work well together. This might require you to interview potential task force members, or quickly make a decision based on a very brief observation of their work skills. And when a team is assembled, you need to monitor the dynamics and address any interpersonal issues before they interfere with milestone completion.

Speaking of interpersonal issues, project managers need to be flexible, direct, and have a high level of emotional intelligence in order to deal with the unforeseen. After all, human error is one of the main reasons why a project can fail, and sometimes these issues are unavoidable. Not surprisingly, there are so many factors that have to be juggled that there is a discipline dedicated to human factors engineering only. Confidence, leadership and compassion, are important components of the work, and recognizing human factors in play with regard to team members, is essential to good project management. It's easy to see that project management involves a unique blend of psychology, business sense, and planning expertise. It takes work to learn all of these skills, but the payoff will come in the successful completion of your goals.






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Posted on 2012-11-30, By: *

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