In the previous article, “Tying Performance Metrics to Business Strategy”, we explored an article by Breakthrough Performance Management, which is about tying performance metrics to business strategy. Now we explore the final article in this series of case studies, which is at the individual role of a project manager. Thank you for all the comments and intellect on the previous posts.
Webber and Torti interviewed project managers and clients in the information technology, aerospace, and management consulting industries to explore two key questions:
1) How can project managers operate more successfully as client-relationship manager and, as client account executives?
2) What strategies can the project manager use to build a trusting, long-term relationship with a client?
Project management is both an art and science. Project managers must develop and master the technical skills required to manage projects, but they must also develop and master the soft skills need to lead the people performing the work. The interviews conducted during the explorative study indicate a series of roles for an effective project manager. The roles are implementer, entrepreneur, politician, friend, marketer, and coach. A closer look at the different roles indicate that the project manager integrates scope, schedule, budget, plans, tools, and other project components to meet the client’s expectations. They think outside of the box for innovative ideas, rely on networking skills, and negotiate with stakeholders. Project managers also foster relationships with other project managers, facilitate communication with and among other stakeholders, and enable teams to achieve results.
The role of account executive is one role that is becoming increasingly apparent. As the project unfolds and events lead to unfriendly relations with the client, the perspective of the organizations is often viewed through the eyes of the client through the actions of project manager. In other words, the client perceives the greater organization in a bad light based on the poor relations with the project manager. Project managers must implement strategies to build a trusting, long-term relationship with a client. One strategy is to make sure that the personalities of the project manager and the client representative match. Another is to use urgency as a tactic to build relationships.
Fostering relations is great for both the organization and the client, but one must make sure that the project manager does not become too ingrained with the customer. The authors warn of “going native” and explain that when project managers are physically located on the clients site for an extended period of time, they tend to identify more with the client organization than that of their own organization. Organizations can ward this off by calling the project manager back on routine visits for face to face time and limit the duration time the project manager spends at the client site.
Organizations can capitalize on good relations between their project managers and clients, but awareness of “going native” is important to successfully retaining that relationship in the future. Sometimes the competitive advantage over other firms is having a good relationship with the client, but this strength and opportunity overplayed becomes a threat and weakness for the organization.
Webber, S., & Torti, M. (2004, February). Project managers doubling as client account
executives. Academy of Management Executive, 18(1), 60-71. Retrieved
October 12, 2008, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.