UNCOMPROMISING PROJECT MANAGER – A CATALYST FOR RAPID SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
OKOROCHA, KEVIN AKU, Ph.D, ESV, FCIPMN
Department of Project Management Technology
Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO)
Imo State, Nigeria
The unprecedented number of buildings collapse and infrastructure failures witnessed in Nigeria in particular and globally generally have been traced to compromise by professionals who fail to follow due process in the course of execution of their professional callings.
The consequences of these inactions/actions are clearly witnessed in our socioeconomic fabrics. These are in the areas of economic loss, unemployment, job loss, health hazards, environmental degradation, pollution, infrastructure decay and in most cases death.
There is therefore need for professionals especially project managers to adhere to the ethics and rules of engagement so as to achieve the desired objectives of the organizations they represent.
Keywords: Project manager, Socioeconomic and development.
There could not have been a better time for this discuss than now particularly as it fits into the Federal Government of Nigeria mantra of zero tolerance for corruption. This is because a compromised project manager will fail in his duty to plan, co-ordinate, supervise, control and take decisive actions as relating to his functions. This has far-reaching consequences on the social and economic lives of the populace. In order to address the foregoing, it becomes imperative we understand the keywords of the topic – Project manager and socioeconomic development. Chandra (2009) opined that the basic building blocks of the traditional form of organization are a functional division of management and a well-defined hierarchical structure. Thus, a firm is organized into various departments, such as production, purchasing, marketing, finance personnel, engineering and research and development. Some of these departments have a line function and the other staff function. Line managers have the principal responsibility for achieving the goals of the firm and are vested with decision-making authority. Staff managers primarily serve in an advisory capacity – of course, within the staff departments, they enjoy administrative powers. The traditional form of organization is quite appropriate for handling established operations which are characterized by a continuous flow of repetitive work, with each department attending to its specific functions – in such a setting, relatively stable inter-departmental and inter-personal relationships emerge. However, the traditional form of organization is not suitable for project management. There are several reasons for this, viz, a project is a non-routine, non-repetitive undertaking often plagued with many uncertainties, the relationships in a project setting are dynamic, temporary and flexible; a project requires a co-ordination of the efforts of persons drawn from different functional areas and contributions of external agencies, it has a means of integrating different departments at levels below the top management, it facilitates effective communication, co-ordination and control when different professionals with different backgrounds and orientation are involved in the project work under time and cost pressures, which often call for overlap, at least partial, of the development, procurement, construction and commissioning work. Having stated the above, there is need for entrusting an individual or (group) with the responsibility for integrating the activities and functions of the various departments and external organization involved in the project work. Such an individual is called the Project Manager.
On the other hand, socio-economic development is the process of social and economic development in a society. The measurement tool for socioeconomic development includes such indicators as GDP, life expectancy, literacy and levels of employment. It also includes personal dignity, freedom of association, personal safety and freedom from fear of physical harm, and the extent of participation of civil society. Socioeconomic impacts are caused by new technologies, changes in the law, changes in the physical environment and ecology (https://www.definitions).
- PROJECTS AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
The Project Management Institute (PMI) (1996) defined a project as a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service. Wild (2002) sees project as an activity with a specific goal occupying a specific period of time. According to Uwazie (2007),a project is the use of one or more scarce resources during a specific time period for the purpose of producing some economic returns or outputs at any given time. Similarly, a project is a capital investment to develop facilities to provide goods and services. It is the consumption in the near future of scarce or limited resources in the hope of obtaining in return over a longer period, same benefits. It is an optimum set of investment-oriented actions by means of which a defined combination of human and material resources is expected to cause a determined amount of economic and social development.
Every project must involve costs and provide services. Projects are the basic building blocks of development. Without successful project identification, preparation and implementation, development plans are no mere than wishes. As in Gittinger (1972) claims that projects are “cutting edge” of development. Projects translate plans into action. As vehicles for social and economic change, projects provide the means of mobilizing resources and allocating them to the production of new economic goods and social services. The paucity of well-conceived projects is a primary reason for the poor record of plan implementation in many developing countries. The inability to identify, formulate, prepare and execute projects continues to be a major obstacle to increasing the flow of capital into the countries (Asare, 2017). Cleland and King (1983) describe project as a complex effort to achieve a specific objective within the schedule and budget target and this typically cuts across organizational lines. This task is unique and is normally not repetitive within the organization. Smith (1985) shares similar views and describes a project as a one-time unique endeavour to do something that has not been done that way before.
Anderson et al., (1987) define a project as a human endeavour which creates change, is limited in time and scope, has mixed goals and objectives, involves a variety of resources and is unique. Turner (1993) defines a project as “an endeavour in which human material and financial resources are organized in a novel way, to undertake a unique scope of work, of given specification within constraints of cost and time, so as to achieve beneficial change defined by quantitative and qualitative objectives.
Kloppenborg, (2012) defined project management as an application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. According to PMI (2004), this is achieved through, the application and integration of the project management processes of initiation, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing. Nagarajan (2012) opined that in the process of creating productive assets, projects optimize the process of resource allocation. Asare (2017) observed that since projects can be successfully completed only with a focused attention on goals by the project team members, projects act as a means for consolidating the experience and expertise of the organizational members effectively, create a learning environment, encourage team spirit and help to achieve organizational objectives. Thus project management, if properly introduced into a system, will fill a natural need for a better and more economical way of managing an ever-growing number of projects. Stuckenbruck (1981) highlighted the following as benefits of project management.
- It is a way of effectively identifying the most critical and urgent needs and for applying the best priorities.
- It is a way of getting people to work effectively together.
- It is a way of efficiently using scarce resources and for effectively allocating them where they are most urgently needed.
- Effective utilization of scarce skilled personnel, as well as raw materials and expensive equipment.
- It is result-oriented and discourages the possibility of projects becoming a part of their bureaucratic institution.
- It is a way of obtaining results faster and more efficiently
- It is a way of increasing the probability of completing the project on time and within budget.
- It is a way of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of government bureaucracies.
- Completing the projects on time and within budgets will give people more trust and confidence in their governments and will encourage the system to be more responsive to public needs and expectations.
In Nigeria today, because of the increase in dimensions and complexity in projects – public housing, literacy, industrial facilities, commercial buildings, power plants, dams, irrigation systems, roads and transportation, water-purification plants, health and sanitation facilities, bank products, education, agriculture, law enforcement, financial management, manpower training and mobilization, rural and urban development, communications, public relations, social work etc, teamwork and interdisciplinary contributions is a must in project management. The manager should steer right persons towards right positions in a right way,in accordance with the work analysis and obligations defined, He should be successful in quality, cost and time management (Kurnoglu and Ergen, 2000).
- KEY PERFORMANCE AREAS IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT
At this point, it becomes necessary to state the obvious about the profession of project management and the basic functions. A project manager is not too far from performing the functions of a functional manager, even though with varied skills in the application of project management tools. A project manager by training is not absolutely an engineer, architect, lawyer, estate surveyor, builder or financial expert. These professional areas are subsumed in his practice for effectiveness and efficiency. He is by training a co-ordinator, a supervisor, a manager par excellence, organizing other professionals in a project team for a result-oriented goal. The activities of the project manager will always serve as building blocks for organizations. They serve as platforms for organizational growth.
In the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, for instance,programmes in the Department of Project Management Technology are so fashioned to equip the students in the areas of law, engineering, architecture, human resource, environment and sciences in addition to the basic knowledge in project management technology. The results have been tremendous from reports of employers and practitioners. It is also important to state that most of the postgraduate students are from other relevant professional areas who see the need to acquaint themselves with knowledge in project management.Apart from his specialized skills, the project manager carries out four broad functions in organizations –project planning, project control, project implementation and human resources.
- PROJECT PLANNING
Chandra (2009) opined that projects involving a few activities, resources constraints, and inter-relationships can be visualized easily by the human mind and planned informally. However, when a project crosses a certain threshold level of size and complexity, informal planning has to be substituted by formal planning. Without effective planning, there may be chaos. In planning, managers outline the steps to be taking in moving the organization towards its objectives. The plans serve to melt together the efforts of all parts of the project towards its realization. Every project planning is meant to achieve the following:
- Providing a basis for organizing the work on the project and allocating responsibilities to individuals.
- Serving as a means of communication and co-ordination between all those involved in the project.
- Inducing people to look ahead.
- Instilling a sense of urgency and time consciousness
- Establishing the basis for monitoring and control.
Every comprehensive project planning involves planning the project work, planning the manpower and organization and planning the information system.
- PROJECT CONTROL
Project control involves a regular comparison of performance against targets, a search for the causes of deviation, and a commitment to check adverse variances. Control ensures regular monitoring, of performance and it motivates project personnel to strive for achieving project objectives. Most project control systems suffer because of delay in reporting performance, inappropriate level of detail and unreliable information.
- PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION
Project implementation process involves the question of what can be done to minimize time and cost over-runs and thereby improve the prospects of the successful completion of projects. For this to be done, it involves the followings:
- Adequate formulation
- Sound project organization
- Proper implementation planning
- Advance action
- Timely availability of funds
- Judicious equipment tendering and procurement
- Better contract management
- Effective monitoring.
- HUMAN RESOURCES
The project manager has to co-ordinate the efforts of various functional groups (within the organization) and outside agencies. Since he works largely with professionals and supervisory personnel, the exercise of leadership and influence over other professionals has to be handled with care. He has to explain the logic and rationale for project activities, shows receptivity to suggestions made by others, avoid unilateral imposition of decisions, eschew dogmatic postures and search for areas of agreement which can be the basis of acceptable solutions. His effective authority would stem from his ability to develop a rapport with the project personnel, his skill in resolving conflicts among various people working on the project, his professional reputation and stature, his skills in communication and persuasion, and his ability to act as a buffer between the technical, engineering, financial and commercial people involved in the project. Thus, the project manager in human resources must successfully handle issues of authority, orientation, motivation and group functioning for successful project execution.
- PROFESSIONAL ETHICS AND STANDARDS
Professional ethics has been defined as making the best possible decisions concerning people, resources and the environment (Pmi.org). Accordingly, ethical choices diminish risk, advance positive results, increase trust, determine long – term success and build reputations. Leadership is absolutely dependent on ethical choices. Members of any profession are expected to be fair, responsive, respectful and honest.
As a professional body, the Chartered Institute of Project Managers of Nigeria (CIPMN), requires members to have high ethical standards just as it requires members to have high professional standards. Ethics and ethical behaviour is a key part of professionalism and therefore vital to CIPMN’s chartered journey.
Developing ethical acumen is not only an essential skill; it is also vital business skill. High standards of ethical behaviour in the profession benefits everyone – the status of the profession is enhanced, the quality of projects’ delivery is raised, society benefits because project managers have completed their work to a high standard, not just on schedule or within budget but with ethical responsibility.Any business that takes ethical values seriously can enjoy an improved financial performance and enhanced reputation more than their peers.
- UNCOMPROMISING PROJECT MANAGER AND SOCIOECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Project managers through the application of project management tools and methods influence positively on the economic and social development of countries that effectively implement them. Project management has gradually transformed from management technique to an overall complex system of opinions, attitudes, values and systematic methods. Governance and organizational thinking through project management has become not only a requirement to follow or simple necessity, but it definitely provides and has significant impact on socio-economic development, (Todorov, 2014). Consequently, a compromised project manager stifles economic growth by affecting both domestic and foreign investments, as well as infrastructural development and other governance factors; thereby increasing the incidences of poverty and inequality which are socioeconomic issues. Such a project manager while engrossed in personal wealth through compromise creates a scenario where masses continue to eke out a living with economic growth stalled, infrastructures dilapidated and cultural values degenerated.
From the foregoing, it becomes necessary to mention that Nigeria, as a developing economy needs uncompromising project managers for its rapid socioeconomic development. A project manager, who having qualified through the rigours of training in the universities or Institutes and understanding the tenets and ethical standards of the profession, can make best possible decisions concerning the people, resources and environment at any given situation. Such a project manager should be seen to be trustworthy, build reputation and can stand out with great integrity. He should be able to give honest quotations even if that means losing out to competitors. Similarly, he should stand up to a client who asks him to do something unethical. Such professional should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
In the present situation where Nigeria is faced with myriad of socioeconomic problems, the uncompromising project manager is a sine qua non. The project manager is needed to salvage the country out of its socioeconomic upheavals. If the practice of project management is enshrined in the provision of infrastructure, roads, water, electricity, public buildings, health sector, educational sector etc. and an uncompromising project manager is allowed to carry out his duties; the socioeconomic structure of the country will be improved. This is because attitudes, values and methodologies will change for better. Similarly, confidence will be built resulting to domestic and foreign investment as well as alienating incidences of poverty and inequality which lead to socioeconomic development.
Consequently, the socioeconomic effects of compromise by a project manager in a project environment can be summarized as follows:
- Slowing down economic growth
- Loss of revenue by state
- Bad image for government and private institutions
- Collapse of local businesses
- Cost escalation
- Government/Private sector underdevelopment
- Loss of foreign aids/grants
- Discourages investment
- Stricter donor regulations
- Loss of election
- Loss of confidence by financial institutions
- Loss of revenue by citizens
- Substandard infrastructure
- Slows down citizens’ human empowerment
- Loss of worker hours
- Armed robbery and theft
- Relocation of services
- Denial of citizens basic rights
- Loss of properties
- Emotional stress on citizens
- Accidents and deaths
- Abandonment of homes(Isaac, 2015)
In Nigeria, our country, can anyone complete within time and budgeted cost, a large government project involving award of many contracts, land acquisition and recruitment, right under the noses of top politicians without compromise? This is the project manager par excellence. He has high integrity, single minded commitment to work, managerial acumen and punctuality. He creates a conducive and professional work culture, picking up the right people, motivating and rewarding them. He innovates and do not punish his employees for unintentional mistakes. A unified value driven, ethical approach practiced by the project organization and its stakeholders is an important consideration for integrating sustainable socioeconomic development project management practices (Mishra et al, 2011). Values underpin the attitudes and behaviours of project managers and team members, (Eskerod&Huemann, 2013). Projects and project managers form the medium through which ethical considerations are practiced (MessiKomer et al, 2011). Due to the capitalist environment that businesses thrive in and the economic interest driven definition of success, malpractices often lead to negative outcomes such as socioeconomic vices, resource depletion, business bankruptcy, economic recession, species extinction, political tension and deprivation, (Mishra et al, 2011). Agarwal and Kalmar (2015) posited that in order to instill ethics and values in project managers, professional bodies should write down codes of conduct and ethics and also formalize their awareness through training programmes and certifications. While the codes address the interactions between a project manager and the different stakeholders and organizations, the ethics and professional conduct makes explicit the environmental and societal facet in the decisions made by the project manager(Slvius and Schipper, 2012). The result of the above statements is the reduction in the level of compromise by the project manager and this will stimulate growth in the socioeconomic fabric of the country.
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