Project & People Management

Project management has been very much talked about and PMBOK is an excellent resource to get all the relevant information. I think people everywhere in public & private life do understand the value of project management. Simple tasks in everyday life (eg: go for an offsite meeting on Friday evening ;)) are looked upon as projects by parents. Everybody involved (husband, wife & children in this case) needs to be on the same page when it comes to execution.

In a professional project that I am involved with right now (automotive), the project initiation factors are manifold including “New Technology”, “Competitive Forces”, “Market Demand” & “Strategic opportunity” as well as “Business Need” to stay relevant in a slow-changing industry. The automotive industry by itself has been very innovative and has been incorporating new technologies as fast as it can. But the processing of artifacts in the industry has more or less been the same from the beginning.

Typical projects in the industry last for 15 years with about 5 years of development lead time, 5 years of shelf time and 5 years of support services. The SW projects, on the other hand, are not that long (typically the life of an SW is maxing 2-3 years) after which a new version or upgrade needs to be issued. The contradiction in the industry now is to get the people in the industry to understand SW methodology and to get the people in the SW to understand the automotive industry!

People working in their respective fields are excellent in their field of knowledge and very reluctant to change their way of thinking and/or processing information. If I take an example, fully autonomous vehicles will be running multi-core HW with a full-fledged POSIX compliant OS plus applications running on it. Now the SW for such a complex system needs to be updated. The size of updates is up in GigaBytes. So the downtime for automobile during servicing, production, etc. might increase if the old way of doing updates is not modernized. But doing this modernization will in effect change the whole process of procurement, production, and service in the industry.

In general, I find that people, especially in the automobile industry are unable to grasp the importance of changing the processes and philosophy to fit in with the needs and demand for modern-day technology. The project manager is more involved with doing people management in this particular project. Some of the tasks like:

  • Getting different teams to talk to each other
  • Promoting common vocabulary
  • Plugging in the core software into the electrical and mechanical engineering teams
  • Requirements management
  • Communications towards stakeholders including 3rd parties
  • Driving infrastructure changes related
  • Assigning ownership (especially because the old ways of attributing ownership is not applicable anymore)
  • Most importantly, changing the mindset of people

I personally do think that people management in this project is as important as project management if not more. Since a lot of things are new, people are afraid of executing tasks since they might end up on the wrong side of the door. People hence needs to be managed so that they feel more confident and more cozy with the changing environment. So according to me, it is not only the project that one needs to manage, but one also needs to manage all the multitude of people who are even remotely going to be affected by the product/services change that the project is driving. And this can be quite overwhelming especially because of cultural differences as well as the fear of failure. Plus there are no real guidelines here.