The image that we have of project managers is determined by our imagination. A project is a temporary undertaking of different size with a clear start and end as well as the required resources – personnel, budget, and infrastructure. Managers are personalities with the role that includes controlling the activities with wide-ranging authority and responsibility for the results. In the end, a project manager actually is a doer, founder, employer, entrepreneur, or leader. The fact that this task is often limited to the role of a clerk or a coordinator without power, explains the fact that projects often do not achieve their objectives.
The company founder normally starts one business at a time. The wrong expectations towards project leaders result in a lack of empowerment and are reflected in the number of parallel projects to be managed – a single project has 100% attention (40 hours per week); each of four projects 25% (10 hours per week); with eight projects 13% each (5 hours per week). Depending on the modus operandi (e.g. PMBoK, PRINCE, GPM or even agile approaches) the activities may differ. However, in any case, communication with the participants has to take place, the team has to be led on request and daily and weekly reports have to be prepared.
- Required communication
This includes the taking care of emails, phone calls and meetings. On average, we have to deal with 21 to 50 daily emails and 11 to 50 phone calls. In addition, meetings with the project teams, managers and external parties are needed, each of which takes between 15 to 60 minutes or even more. With several projects, the project manager sometimes only has one hour per week for this exchange.
- Appropriate leadership
Leading includes personal alignment with employees and managers (e.g. feedback, target agreement, personal career), solving disputes and crises, and providing motivation and support. With in a year, this quickly accounts for 20% of working time – i.e. one day per week across various projects. Of these eight hours per week, sometimes only one hour is available for leadership per initiative.
- Mandatory reports
Comprehensibility is the essential purpose of the reports. Many addressees assume that up-to-dateness, accuracy, consistency and significance come at the push of a button. However, the project manager ensures through random samples that the data and figures provided by the team members are in a timely and correct manner that fit to each other. Daily controlling is the prerequisite for always up-to-date data that are regularly integrated to overarching reports.
- Overarching tasks
The summary of the daily data to weekly, monthly, quarterly milestone and final reports regarding the progress of the project, the employees deployed, the financial consumption as well as the need for action and decision making creates for various stakeholders a current overview. In addition, certain tasks take place weekly, such as the start and end of the week, including lessons learned and plan adjustments. The number of reports can vary from one project to another. With multiple projects, the project manager may merely spend an hour a week to produce conclusive reports in the respective initiative.
- Remaining time
The rest is available for other spontaneous tasks – content-related, relational and personal activities. With several projects, the project manager may have only one hour per week for unexpected tasks.
Bottom line: It should be clear that this workload cannot be compensated by overtime. Projects are the form for today’s tasks. If one takes the objectives seriously and really wants to achieve the desired results, then those ordering parties should offer under all circumstances the project management the chance to commit oneself to one project or to accept the fact that the project will fail with a two-thirds probability. Otherwise: Project managers with five parallel projects have only eight hours per project and week.
Handworkers were the driving force for the development of the economy for a long time. They had the production of tools and things of everyday life in their hands – tanners, furrier, saddlers, shoemakers, bakers, painters, smiths etc. Complexer commodities could be produced by bundling different crafts in manufactories. This initiated the transition into industrial manufacturing. The breaking down of work into individual tasks, the so-called division of labor, has passed its peak in the 20th Century. Since the computer executes the “manual” activities faster and more reliable, the question about the future roles of the staff arises. The brainworkers will certainly become a large, new group.
The new types of employee will have no longer an affect through their hand, but through their brainwork. The feedstocks are less likely of physical, but predominantly of mental nature. In both cases the smart use of tools is decisive for the performance of the employees. Hammer, screw driver and brush are replaced by the computer and its various programs. The handworkers gain their abilities through regular exercise and longtime experience in handling the tools and materials. The new brainworkers develop their abilities through training and benefit from the acquired practice in handling ideas, drafts and other reasoned outcomes. Potential familiar brainworkers are: Chief Knowledge Officer, Knowledge broker, Change manager, Organization developer, Chief Information Manager. In the future new roles will emerge that will take care of information.
Brainworkers generally have the following tasks, authorities and responsibility as well as the respective capabilities.
are the activities of a role in dealing with information. Depending on the specific task, information is created, processed, stored, searched, updated, reused and deleted as well as distributed and additionally explained. Furthermore general tasks evolve – brainworkers guarantee the flow of information, prevent the loss of data, improve fundamental methods and actions, support the daily work with words and deeds and describe general relationships. They use social networks, IT-tools and all aspects of project-related work.
describes the rights of a role that it needs for the execution of its tasks. All participants must be put into the position to provide and use information according to their role. This starts with the informational self-determination concerning the own, personal representation and goes up to the production of data and reports in the business context. Search engines as well as the barrier-free access improve the quality of the outcomes. The creators must it be allowed in case of further inquiry to describe their produced contents.
describes the obligations in managing information. Since everybody is on the one hand user AND on the other hand supplier of contents, governance is required for handling information. This includes that all creators provide the data, which represents the bases of the information, with the correct quality (e.g. correctness, completeness, consistency and up-to-dateness). During the processing the quality should be maintained. The enterprises, institutions and governmental bodies, where people work, have to ensure that on the one hand the employees can process the information in a qualified way and on the other hand that data will not get lost, wrongly interpreted, or abused in any way.
are the knowledge and dexterities of the brainworkers. This includes technical, methodical, social and systemic abilities in dealing with data, information and knowledge. The parties concerned must be able to interpret similarly the data in the respective industry sector and business environment. They need the proficiency for the procedures of the individual tasks. Cooperation and guidance have a central role since all results are produced in teams. It is necessary to develop skills, in order to master the social networking, various IT-systems as well as methods and procedures of time and project management. Today, enterprises are less regarded as clockworks, but more as organisms. This demands holistic thinking, system understanding and change competency for all participants.
The challenges for each brainworker are the balancing act between sharing information and the sustainable competitive advantage through brainwork. Information increases its value through as much as possible frequent and extensive sharing. It becomes the common property that everyone can use for its own advantage. The knowledge advantage, symbolized through ‚knowledge is power’, is thereby replaced with the ability ‚to create knowledge’. This requires that brainworkers learn continuously, create and transfer new relationships into the business practice. In the future, the borders between hand and brainworkers will blur. But the one will not function without the other.
After thought: The transition from hand to brainworker will be revalued in medium-term. The old proverb will be valid again “A trade in hand finds gold in every land”.