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Eileen Murray - Project Management Plus Blog

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Those who know me know I have plenty to say and stories to tell about the vagaries and victories of a career in project management.


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Who Needs a Project Manager?

By emmurray, Jun 2 2014 09:26AM

Good question – and many people/situations simply don’t!

If your business/enterprise runs along relatively straightforward lines without any need for significant change of any form, then you’re unlikely to need project management disciplines.

But – if it doesn’t? If you need to implement a major change, either of location, product or organisation - what then?

A valid response might be “well our people are good – they know what they’re doing and understand the goal, so they’ll do what’s needed when it’s needed.”

And they might.

So why do you need a dedicated project manager?

Let me use an illustration – a real-life case-study. A factory had been highly successful in gaining new business and they needed to introduce a new manufacturing cell. The only way to do this was to re-layout part of the site, relocating one of their manufacturing lines. The line in question makes parts for one of the world’s leading car makers and they are sole-supplier of the part. There are fierce cash penalties if they disrupt the component supply.

They have an excellent plant engineer who knows everything about the equipment – couldn’t he manage the move? They have a production planner – he really knows all about planning – couldn’t he manage the move? They have a production manager – who really the needs the job to go well – couldn’t he manage the move?

Quite possibly any or all of those people could manage the move. But who would do their job, while they’re doing it? Suppose another critical piece of kit has a technical problem during the move – what’s the plant engineer going to do? Another key customer calls requiring an urgent additional batch of components – what’s the production planner going to do? There’s a quality concern arisen in some incoming materials that are required immediately on the shop-floor – what’s the production manager going to do?

Whether the project manager is identified from within the organisation or out-sourced, it is pretty essential that for any important project that someone is identified who is going to be able to capably manage the job and give it the required skills, dedication and focus.

In regard to the illustration - what actually happened? The job was carried out over a 3-day period, having built up (just) enough stock of the critical component. There was a timing plan that broke everything down into 15 minute chunks of activity (not half day, 15 minutes). There were detailed plans for each and every machine disassembly and re-assembly, precise location drawings for where everything would go, lists of all tools that would be required for each stage of the work. There were detailed discussions with all the participants in the weeks prior to the move and frequent meetings leading up to the move. There was no possibility of time contingency, so there were other contingencies in place – additional resources that could be called on, if required, emergency “disaster recovery” type firms located who could step in if things didn’t quite go as planned.

The day came and the machines were turned off. The plan was referred to over and over again as the first day progressed. By the middle of the second day the team were starting to relax a little. Although there had been some frustration at the amount of time putting into the planning the job, the results started to be appreciated. Needless to say, everything went smoothly – I wouldn’t have put it into this blog if it hadn’t, would I!? Before the end of the third day the machines were re-commissioned and parts started being produced again – to spec!

That was a relatively light-weight project in respect to time (only 3 days) and complexity (only moving machines). However, if it had gone wrong the financial implications could have been huge.

Often organisations think that managing a project can be given to someone to do alongside their usual job. Hopefully the above illustration is one where clearly that wasn’t the case…..but perhaps most important projects deserve to be managed by someone with the appropriate skills and focus?

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Various thoughts and ramblings on getting things done in the real world!

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