Managing projects through people
Managing projects through people

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Managing projects through people

1 Why people management matters to the successful delivery of projects

The importance of budget, time and quality to the success of projects means that they are often managed as technical systems rather than behavioural systems. Yet mismanagement of the ‘people’ aspects of projects is as likely to contribute to their failure as neglect of the ‘hard’ dimensions of project management. This is because the successful implementation of any kind of project requires the effective deployment of human as well as material resources. Indeed, without people, no project could exist in the first place.

People may be important to the success of a project as:

  • project managers in charge of a project;

  • members of a project team responsible for implementing a project;

  • internal or external customers for whom the project is being conducted – ‘end users’;

  • company ‘sponsors’ of a project, for example, senior management;

  • stakeholders who may be affected by a project's outcome;

  • external suppliers of goods and services on which the project's implementation depends.

In order to meet ‘hard’ criteria for a project's success, the contributions and responses to the project made by these individuals or groups are crucial. Managing these contributions and responses, as well as the relationships between parties with an interest in the project needs to be planned. For this reason, it is often argued that managing people is the most important aspect of project management.

The significance of stakeholders is well recognised and there are many ways of analysing the impact of their influence and needs. Either of two simple approaches will probably suffice in order that the project manager can recognise the implications of stakeholder influence:

  • (a) draw a ‘star chart’ showing the stakeholders around the project:

Figure 1
Figure 1:Stakeholder analysis, power and influence – a star chart

The arrows can be two-way as well as one-way and the expectations can be marked on the arrows, which can be of different thickness. Amend the chart as necessary in order to depict clearly the influences on the particular project.


  • (b) draw a matrix and locate stakeholders in it.

Figure 2
Figure 2 Stakeholder analysis, power and influence – a matrix

Managing people in a particular project will depend on its scope, the phase of the project, and the nature of the project. The impact of human resources on a project are likely to be greatest when it is large scale and loosely structured, involving large numbers of people, whose roles and relationships with regard to the project may not always be easy to determine or manage. The chance of success in projects is increased by paying more attention to issues such as

  • relationship management;

  • communication;

  • influencing; and

  • politics.

This means that individuals involved in managing projects will have to use a wide range of people-management roles and skills in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome. These will include:

  • leadership;

  • motivation;

  • negotiation; and

  • facilitation of team working.


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