A project organization is a structure that facilitates the coordination and implementation of project activities. Its main incentive is to create an environment that encourages interactions among the project personnel with a minimum amount of distractions, overlaps and conflicts. At the start of every project, it is important to first select the organization structure. On the basis of unique characteristics of the project, each project structure various forms its own advantages and disadvantages. The main goal of an organizational structure is to reduce confusion and uncertainty that is almost certain to occur in a project’s early stages.
The structure defines the relationships among members of the project management and the relationships it has with its stakeholders. It does this by using an organizational chart. There are three organizational structures that will be the focus of this paper and they are functional structure, matrix structure and pure project structure. There are many project considerations that need to be taken into account when choosing a project management structure. The size of the project is one of the main concerns since it is an all encompassing topic that needs to be addressed early on in the timeline.
Next is strategic importance. Who or what stands to gain from the success of this project? There is also the need for innovation and technology. Projects are sometimes meant to break boundaries and existing resources might not be able to cut it. The project manager needs to see if the required technologies will be developing along side the project to ensure it’s on time completion. Also, there is the need for integration, which is if multiple departments need to be involved. Sometimes departments run on different schedules and uniting them together means some very tricky scheduling.
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Having this schedule written up and agreed upon by all departments can make this much easier to accomplish. There is also environmental complexity, which is the number of external interfaces that could possibly affect the project during the course of its construction. Things like the weather, the government or people are some examples of things that need to be analyzed carefully to ensure they do not cause any significant delays. Lastly, and certainly the most important, is budget and time constraints and the stability of those resources. A project cannot go beyond just a blueprint of an idea without the time and money eeded to make it take shape. Sometimes a company needs to prepare for years in order to raise the required resources to even begin a project. It would not be hard imagine the forethought that goes into this. Also, finding the available time to dedicate to the project is a difficult task itself. How can a company allot time to a project without it hampering its everyday tasks? What good is a project if the resources going into cripple the company it is for? It is a delicate balance to maintain which cannot be decided on a whim. Once all of these concerns have been thought through, a management structure can finally be decided on.
Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, which makes choosing the structures a fairly complicated task. Let us go through each of them to see what they are capable of allowing managers to do. The functional structure allows employees within the functional divisions of a company to perform a set of specialized tasks. Each department is staffed with the appropriate employees. Engineers stay in the engineering department and human resources stay in HR. It is a very clear cut method to keep the right people in the right place doing the job they are suited to do.
The one downside to this structure is that there is very little communication between the different divisions. If there is an urgent change that needs to be done, it is very likely that all the divisions would be able to react at the same time. A functional structure is best suited for a producer of standardized goods and services in large volumes at low costs. Every department knows what it needs to do and how to do it. Let the divisions work on their specific tasks is basically the motto of this structure. The next structure to discuss is the matrix structure. In a matrix structure, employees are grouped based on function and product.
The employees are selected based on strengths and weaknesses so that the entire group can cover for each other and form an effective team with all its bases covered. Individuals are chosen according to the needs to of the project and the project managers of each group are directly responsible for completing the project within the agreed upon deadline and budget. There are downsides however. Since every group has its own project manager, there can sometimes be a conflict between them over the allocation of resources. One group might need more money or time to finish their tasks, but that would leave the other groups with less to work with.
Also, the independence granted to each of the groups can make it difficult to monitor them all if the need arises. Lastly, costs can increase exponentially if each group has more and more managers and sub managers. The last structure is pure project which gives the project manager total control over the project they oversee. Simply put, a pure project organization might also be termed a task force. In the case of a pure project, the leader of this task force would have to be given total authority for a limited period to solve a particular problem.
The pure project structure offers powerful advantages of clear project authority, access to special expertise, project focus and priority. This also simplifies project communications since all messages and concerns are taken directly to the leader for them to look over and decide upon. The disadvantages, on the other hand, include a duplication of effort, intercompany rivalries, uncertain reintegration of resources and unclear motivations and loyalties. If a project has an all powerful leader, the project essentially becomes their project. It can potentially steer the project on a course that the rest of the staff does not agree with.
This is another source of significant delays and can change what the project is about and affect its chances of success. All of these structures have their own strengths and weaknesses, which have to be adapted to the projects they support. A simply error in selecting the wrong one can spell disaster for a project before it even has a chance to start. A manager should look at every aspect of a project, both in the current time and in the near future; to decide which structure will give it the best chance to accomplish its objectives. After all, the structure is made to help the project along, not drag it down.
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