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Groups and teamwork
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4.4 What does a project manager do?

So what is project management and what does a project manager do? Project management involves managing teams of people from different disciplines to achieve unique project objectives. For example, a new product development team may never develop exactly the same product again. However, the competences used in product development may be transferable to other projects.

Project management usually takes place within a constrained environment. Typical factors which impinge on project management include time pressures, competitive market pressures, limited budgets and quality targets. There are, in the case of product development, concerns with product quality, particularly health and safety issues. There are also time pressures associated with bringing out a new product in order to remain competitive.

Belbin (1981) suggests that the quickest and most certain way of changing the fortunes of a firm is to replace the top person. Leading or managing a project team may be equally significant for effectiveness in team operations. Successful team leadership depends on a number of factors: the personality of the team leader and his or her preferred style, the maturity of the team members and their familiarity with the project to be undertaken, as well as the importance and urgency of the task. Team leaders are not concerned with staff simply for the sake of being concerned. Improved standards result from managers being actively concerned with the team's ability to tackle its work competently. This is because team effectiveness depends on both task- and relationship-oriented behaviours.

What follows is an outline description of the major areas with which project managers are concerned, and the knowledge, skills and tools that project managers need. Although project management is quite different from line management some issues are very similar, e.g. handling relationships between staff. As noted earlier, projects are designed to change something: the manager must be able to cope with the risk inherent in managing such changes. People working on the project may come from other areas; indeed, they may be contractors or subcontractors or employees of member firms in a consortium.