What Every Manager Needs to Know about Project Management

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ALL MANAGERS must plan and manage projects. You may be in production, trying to determine a better way to cut costs in the plant. You may be in marketing, charged with laying out a marketing plan for a new product. You may have to audit the books in one office of your company, in hopes of improving efficiency. All of these projects, and numerous others in your organization, involve deadlines, particular results, budgets, and ambiguity. They require coordination among numerous people, and they require innovation to solve problems. Indeed, projects are the lifeblood of innovation, and today’s managers must create innovation in order to compete in a changing world. All managers can do a better job of getting innovative projects done on time, within budget, and according to desired quality standards.

Why must we manage projects more effectively? One clear reason is the rapid technological change that we continue to experience. Every year, one of every eight jobs in the United States did not exist the year before; every year one of every nine jobs is eliminated.1 Furthermore, we are not integrating our most vital resource—people—with these new jobs in a way that taps people’s potential. A recent survey revealed that fewer than 25 percent of employees say they are working near full potential. Half of those surveyed do only what is required to keep their jobs. And 75 percent said they could be significantly more effective.2

Some would say that we need a revolution in the way we plan and manage our work, our projects, and our innovation if America is to survive, let alone improve. In the foreword to a recent book, The Leadership Challenge, Tom Peters writes, “The manager-leader revolution is not optional if you are interested in your children’s well-being.”3 These are strong words. Do we have the answers for this necessary revolution? Yes, some managers do know the answers.

What we and others have learned from experience, as well as from research on effective project managers, is that the reason some managers get the job done is that they plan and manage effectively.4 First they plan, then they manage the plan. Then they continue to plan/manage, plan/manage until they get the job done. We would all agree it is important to plan and manage projects effectively; the difference is that effective project managers do it.



1. Bureau of Labor Statistics (Washington, DC, 1987).

2. D. Yankelovich & Associates, Work and Human Values (New York: Public Agenda Foundation, .1983).

3. J.M. Kouzes and B.Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987).

4. W.A. Randolph and B.Z. Posner, Effective Project Planning and Management: Getting the Job Done (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988); also see

D.P. Slevin and J.K. Pinto, “Balancing Strategy and Tactics in Project Implementation,” Sloan Management Review, Fall 1987, pp. 33–42.

5. Randolph and Posner (1988).

6. S. Kerr, “On the Folly of Rewarding A while Hoping for B,” Academy of Management Journal 18 (1975): 769–783.

7. L. Stuckenbruck, The Implementation of Project Management: The Professional’s Handbook (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1981).

8. Randolph and Posner (1988).

9. A. Poor and B. Brown, “Project Management Software: The Top Sellers,” PC Magazine, 11 February 1986, pp. 155–164.

10. B.Z. Posner, “Managing High Technology Professionals” in Handbook of Technology Management, ed. D.E. Kocaoglu (New York: John Wiley & Sons, forthcoming).

11. G.E. Manners et al., “Motivating Your R&D Staff’ Research Management, September–October 1983, pp. 12–16.

12. G.N. Powell and B.Z. Posner, “Excitement and Commitment: Keys to Project Success,” Project Management Journal 15, No. 4 (1984): 39–40.

13. Kouzes and Posner (1987).

14. Randolph and Posner (1988).

15. B.Z. Posner, “What’s All This Fighting about in Project Management?” IEEE Transactions in Engineering Management 33 (1986): 207–211.

16. C.F. Bolster, “Negotiating: A Critical Skill for Technical Managers’ Research Management, November–December 1984, pp. 18–20.

17. R.D. Archibald, Management of High Technology Programs and Projects (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976).

18. Kouzes and Posner (1987).

19. A. Shapero, Managing Professional People: Understanding Creative Performance (New York: The Free Press, 1985).

20. Ibid.

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