Global Green Books Publishing is continuing to grow. They now have three large customerstwo in traditional print-based work and the third is a local college. They produce customized eBooks for this local college. This newest line of work is growing, as other customers hear of their work, and the account managers are speaking with several other colleges and professional associations about taking on additional projects in electronic publishing.
As they have grown, they have had to start implementing some project management concepts to plan and manage their work. The founders hired Samantha as a project associate or project manager on a full-time basis to help them introduce project management practices and help them tide over the crisis they were experiencing with rapid growth. Within the first three months in her new role as PM, she introduced formal project management processes, created a PM manual and trained the employees to get the work done well. Within a year, the company was delivering projects on schedule, the quality processes worked—and customers were happy with the products! This success was leading to possible new work and greater opportunities to bring on new customers.
As the growth continued, Samantha was now feeling the pressure. She was only one person. And there was so much more to still do.
Using her project management skills, she had implemented more formal project management processes, created a PM manual and trained the employees to get the work done well. One area where she especially felt stretched thin was in supporting the supervisors.
As the eBook business grew, there were more and more demands on the supervisors. Many were great print technicians who had caught the eye of the founders for their attitudes and customer service ethic. But today, they were being called on to do more complex tasks than merely running a highly automated print copier. Supervisors are interacting with customers, as well as with internal account managers and customer service representatives. They are managing employees with a diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and motivations. It is increasingly hard for them to ask employees to take on hard challenges when they themselves do not have those skills and have not done the eBook publishing that the business is increasingly moving to
Many of the supervisors have had a bit of project management mentoring from Samantha, but still know that they have to be both leaders and managers. As project teams come together to work on eBooks, there are challenges. Some of the challenges have to do with knowing the status of the work, as part-time employees come in and hand a piece of a project off to another worker. Some deal managing conflicts as they arise – both technical issues as permissions are delayed and content cannot yet be incorporated, leading to scheduling changes, and interpersonal issues among staff. Some of these conflicts occur between a mostly young, part-time contingent of student workers and the full-time employees. Supervisors are often drawn into mediating or resolving these conflicts. They really need to meld together their staff to create highly capable, productive project teams for these fast-paced eBook projects. The staff needs to trust each other and their leadership to be fair and to balance work priorities with the times that they are available.
Supervisors need to provide leadership, to provide inspiration for their team, and to be good motivators of their team members, as well as be a good manager, worrying about the day-today and minute-by-minute accomplishment of the project’s goals. Being a good motivator also means that the supervisors must be good listeners to understand what issues are confronting their team members and the needs of their team members.
The supervisors were realizing that as a group they needed two things. One was a greater grasp of people skills, or so-called “soft” skills, to help make them more effective. The other was more support in project management as they needed to better track the details of the work, and the task level scheduling and rescheduling that was happening as team members come and go for their work shifts and as permissions sometimes take longer to obtain than planned.
Samantha is starting to discuss with her management and with the human resources and training group how they can meet some of these needs. Perhaps some leadership development training for supervisors could be arranged. And she is talking with her management about setting up a project management office (PMO) to have project management staff available to help the supervisors with some of their work tracking and scheduling challenges. She hopes that addressing these two issues will make their eBook delivery much smoother.
Comment on the following aspects of the case study:
a) What are some of the challenges facing supervisors?
b) What skills do you think the supervisors need to be effective project managers? Why do they need these skills?
c) Are there skills that team members need to be effective team members in a project? If so, what are these skills?
d) Which characteristic or skill do you think is the most significant characteristic of an effective project manager?
e) What steps could project managers take to help make their teams more effective?
f) What advice would you give Samantha about setting up a project management office? What roles could these staff perform, and how could they interact with the existing projects?
g) Can you describe other ways that this PMO function could be organized?