The New Project Manager

Amphenol TCS, a division of Amphenol Corporation, designs and manufactures high speed, high density connectors, high-reliability printed circuit boards, and backplane system solutions.  One product-line manager explained that until recently product design, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing had taken place under one roof at their Nashua, New Hampshire facility were 2,000 people had been employed. But competitive pressure forced them to rethink their manufacturing strategy.

Today, only design, engineering and prototype development remain in their 240,00square foot facility.  Once a project is approved, the product is designed, then a prototype is built, and once approved, production takes place at one of their plants in Malaysia (39,500 square feet), China (90,000 square feet), or Mexico (110,000 square feet).  The Nashua facility is now almost empty, employing about 400 people, and to reduce operating costs, the company plans to lease smaller quarters nearby.  That’s not the only change. In response to competitive pressures, according to the product-line manager, “everyone now has three jobs.”  Fewer people do more work not less!

The Amphenol TCS story is not uncommon and has been played out many times as companies respond to an increasingly competitive world economy.  It is a story that has had a significant influence over the role of project manager.

 Increasingly, project managers are faced with:

 

These pressures, by themselves have increased the complexity of the project manager’s job, but there is more. Organizations have become aware of the value that a project orientation can bring to the development and execution of a wide range of corporate activities.  As a result, many organizations have instituted initiatives to support this orientation.

 

The Project Based Organization is a centralized group that oversees all of the projects in the organization. It acts as a resource center and as a means by which common approaches, procedures and skills are used across all projects.

The Steering Committee is used to ensure that the charter is appropriate and that the project is in alignment with business objectives.

In response to the complexities of the project manager’s role many organizations have added the position of project sponsor. The project sponsor functions as the project steward, ensuring the political and financial support for the project. 

Also in response to the many roles required by the project manager, project coaches are now used to offer help when the project manager feels that his or her expertise needs support.

As a result the “organizational structure” of the project is considerably more complex than it was in the past, and imposes a greater challenge for the project manager who must intereact with each of these constituents on an effective basis.

 
Today, the new project manager must be comfortable in many new areas.

 

The era of the project manager as a primarily independent manager may be coming to a close, at least in most competitive industries. The new project manager is one who can function in new organizational structures, is open to outside participation, and understands the pressures of the global organization. Those project managers who can adapt to this expanded and more complex role will likely prosper.

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