Project Management Series 1: Project management Vs General Operations Management

by on March 7, 2012 in Course Preparation, Guests Column, PMP®, Project Management, Trainer Articles

The three main types of systems in operation and production management they are 1) mass production system 2) batch production system and 3) non-repetitive systems. All of these types are found in both manufacturing and services industries ( Shtub, 1994).

For industries with high demand product or service and high investment, mass production system is used. Mass production system centers on the important process that helps in producing a product or perform a service. It has limited application and fixed directions. Special purpose equipments are used to perform the functions needed for the product or the service. Information processing and material handling are a lot simple. Use of conveyors like automated system is extensive. The system is very efficient in producing large quantities of product or service. When there is a need to produce a different product or service, these systems are not easily adjustable and hence may prove to be ineffective under such circumstances. Managing such systems is quite straight forward and less complex. Planning and organizing is a lot simple as these are generally repeatable work. Management is mainly to do with machineries and raw materials and hence the complexity of human resource management is less.

When several products or services are required in the same factory then batch production system serves as a good alternative. If the demand is not high and the investment is low, and variety of products or services are to be processed more flexible and adjustable system called batch-oriented system is adopted. The system will be adjusted when production is changed from one product to another.  Using more general-purpose resources attains flexibility. The complexity in planning, scheduling and controlling is much greater than mass production system. Here the complexity of management increases over batch production system. The batch production system is process oriented and mass production system is product oriented.

On the other hand, systems pertaining to low demands are very much different from the other two types. Past experience may prove to be less advantageous as these systems are non repetitive in nature. The systems put more emphasis on planning, monitoring and controlling of the activities of the product and or services. The requirements of these systems resulted in the growth of project management.

It is evident from above that the difference among product oriented, process oriented or project oriented management is very thin and hard to define. To understand it better – planning and designing a new car model is a project whereas running a factory that produces cars from the model is mass product oriented and when a need arises to change the model of the car to another you may go for a more flexible and adjustable process oriented system.

As given earlier, the very fact that the role of a project manager is temporary and the team is basically a short-term association, brings forth various differences and problems between project management and other managements. In a fixed team as in general operations management the team members are directly reporting to the manager who is clearly leading the team. The member’s stay in the team will be generally long term. Manager will be generally for creating good team working and setting the norms and behaviors of the team. The manager needs to build trust and respect in the team. He/she will also encourage the sharing of information, opinions and feelings for the benefit of the team. He/she will be setting targets and also will appraise the performance of the team members apart from creating the team identity.

On the contrary, in projects, the team will be made of people from different divisions across different sites of the organization. Though the project managers job is similar to the one described in the previous paragraph, he needs to encounter or counter the following problems:

The team members may often report to the manager of his department apart from reporting to current project manager. As the priority of the other departmental managers change the project team’s stability becomes questionable. It will be difficult to maintain the teamwork as the team membership may change every now and then to accommodate the priorities of the departments. For the same reason the team members do not know each other well and hence it will take some time to establish team norms. Again in a changing team, the team members who do not know each other may find it difficult to share information, opinions and feelings openly. As the member is often reporting to more than one manager, appraisal of his or her work may pose a problem or two. Also, it requires an additional effort on the part of project manger to create the team identity. The following table 1.1, attempts to explain the main difference between general management and project management.

S NOGeneral managementProject management
1Continuous processOne time affair
2Single stateMoves from one state to another i.e. results in change
3No clear (single) objectiveSingle clear objective
4No real start and end pointsDefinable start and end points
5Not much of emphasis on planningGreater need and emphasis on planning as one has to think ahead all the time
6Resource and machine relatedMore human resource related
7Product or process orientedProject oriented
8Repetitive and non uniqueNon repetitive and unique
9Simple team buildingComplex team building
10Role of manager and team membership is permanent or long termRole of manager and team membership is temporar

                                   Table 1.1 Differences PM Vs Other

To put it simply, project management is unique, highly planned yet unpredictable, managing and resulting in change with definable start and end dates with the help of a team of skilled and knowledgeable people. The principal difference is project manager has a temporary role.  This leads to some specific differences and difficulty in the case of team building effort.

Arul Muthupandian, PMP, PMI-ACP, ITIL

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