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May 2002

M anagement
Managemen nt pprinciples or rreform
rinciples ffor rojects
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In early 1999, the City Government of Addis Ababa launched a large project (some 30 pro-
fessional staff) to reform municipal planning and management under the title Office of the
Revision of Addis Ababa Master Plan. In this effort, it is supported by GTZ1. The following
paragraphs capture some insights into how such projects can be successfully managed.
These principles complement the systemic project management tools developed or adapted
for the project (see reference at the end of this paper).

A) THE BARE MINIMUM STAFF


The difficulty of bringing staff up to high performance levels rises exponentially with
its number; i.e. the more staff there are, the more difficult it is to help them perform at higher
levels. Also, the more staff there are, the more likely it is to have one or more rotten apples
who are liable to bring staff morale down within the team. And: people usually perform better
if challenged also in terms of timing. Finally, experience shows that in teams with more
than three members, responsibility becomes so diluted that performance declines with every
new member. Therefore: Always work with the bare minimum of staff required. If you
expect the workload to rise later, hire more staff later.

B) STAFF QUALITY COMES FIRST


Professionals differ from each other with regard to their experience, qualification and person-
ality. When it comes to strategizing or to working on difficult integration tasks, quantity can
in no way compensate for a lack of quality. On the contrary: project staff who cannot
really contribute to the task at hand is a drag on those who can. Therefore: Make a maxi-
mum effort to bring in key performers, and avoid hiring staff if you are not sure of their
qualifications.

C) ONLY LEARNERS UNLEARN


One can only bring change if oneself is ready to change. This also holds true for the staff of
change projects. The project staff should see their work in this project as an opportunity to
learn which means to change their ways. But very often, experienced staff find it very diffi-
cult to unlearn. Many experts have seen it all and are only ready to share their wisdom.
Therefore: Hire staff on the basis of an understanding that everyone in the project shall
be ready to take on new challenges, unlearn old habits, and change. And, handle staff
accordingly, promoting those who are ready to change.

D) PM OWNS CARROT AND STICK


Project team members, especially those who come from public offices, often expect to
work toward low performance targets. To meet more exacting standards, they need to be
motivated and sometimes even to be put under pressure. Rewards can reach from contract
extension to bonus payment, and sanctions from reassignment to firing. This is a task of the
project manager. But he can only accomplish this task if the team members are loyal to him,
not to somebody above or beside him. Therefore: The project manager shall have the au-
thority and the opportunity to reward or sanction most of the project staff himself.

E) NATURAL LEADERS
Still too often, the prevailing culture in the public service is to avoid decision-making and to
keep ones head low (culture of survival). But this attitude does not lend itself to production
rapid and far-reaching innovation and change. Within the limited time frame and social space

1
German Agency for Technical Co-operation / Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit, Eschborn
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of a project, leadership plays the most important role to help team members adjust their atti-
tude. Therefore: Ensure that the Project Manager, above all, is a leader and that at
least a quarter of all staff are natural leaders who can move others along with them.

F) UNEQUAL PAIR
The position of the project manager being so important, it is difficult to find a single per-
son who embodies all the aspects of leadership required: technical competence, good
social relations, political skill, physical and psychological robustness. If he (or she) works with
people whom he trusts, the project manager can base his management style on his individ-
ual strengths and can delegate those tasks in which others might be more resourceful. Typi-
cally, project managers are either good integrators (people-oriented) or good motivators /
pushers (task-oriented), but rarely combine strengths in these two fields. Therefore: The
project manager should be able to work with a deputy who can complement him, to
work as an unequal pair.

G) RAISE THE STAKES


To bring about change (especially: radical change) is particularly difficult in an organisational
environment which has been formed in times of destructive policies and which, therefore, has
developed a culture of survival. Change is a complicated affair and often meets resistance.
The most difficult challenge in a change project is to get things done. Organisations resist
change by diluting efforts and issues, and most change projects fizzle out after some
time without meeting their objective. Therefore: Raise the stakes, work with a strong fo-
cus, tie the fate of the project to visible achievements, put political weight behind sin-
gle issues and individuals.

H) NO CONTROL WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY


Vagueness of responsibilities lets a project drift towards unnecessary compromise
and fudge. Firstly, the natural attitude of many people is to hide in the group by opting for
the smallest common denominator. The use of committees for decision-making reinforces
such tendencies. Secondly, people with authority sometimes tend to shift the burden of find-
ing the right decision to their technical advisors or, even worse, to technical advisory com-
mittees. Generally speaking: only those who are liable to be affected by a change projects
outcome will go out of the path of least resistance. Therefore: The people who carry the
responsibility for the implementation or replication of the projects outcomes and
those ones directly affected by these outcomes must play the critical role in the ap-
proval procedure.

I) STRUCTURE FOLLOWS PLAN


Project work for organisational change is quite complicated and difficult to plan. Still, deci-
sions with regard to staff acquisition as well as to the internal hierarchy (staff positions) and
external hierarchy (project supervisory structure) need to be made early on. Wrong deci-
sions on these issues will cause much friction and seriously impede the projects capacity
to perform at its later stages. Therefore: Develop a vision and a plan on how tasks and
staffing shall evolve over the better part of the projects life. Only then make decisions
on hierarchy and structure.

J) BACKWARD PLANNING
In view of limited resources, only the most essential activities should be planned for. How-
ever, in planning a change project there are always too many options for strategies and
activities which all look somehow plausible and fruitful if seen only as potential next steps.
Indeed, it is only a focus on results which allows us to pick the most adequate options for
action. Therefore: Activity planning should strictly and always follow the sequence: in-
tended impacts, outputs, contributions from others, inputs and value added, prerequi-
sites. For example: We shall avoid defining inputs etc. before we know which outputs we
want to achieve.

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K) FLEXIBILITY IS HALLMARK
A change projects is a less stable and foreseeable undertaking than e.g. building a house
or other technical projects. In planning terms, a change project is much more like a military
campaign. There is a plan, but the next step always needs to be designed in view of the
ever-changing developments on the ground. In this sense, flexibility is the hallmark of project
management. Therefore: Keep structures flexible to the extent possible, e.g.
hire generalists as permanent staff and specialists only on temporary basis
appoint staff to leadership positions on a temporary basis first
call for frequent review of the projects activity plan.

L) WORK RULES
Work culture in line departments and academic institutions is usually not geared towards
high productivity (it is rather geared towards other objectives: reliability, resilience, exacti-
tude, etc.). Projects, however, need a work culture that is much more output oriented. This
culture must be internalised, that means swallowed and digested by the project staff. There-
fore: The Project Manager must provide the project with a distinct work culture that is
performance and output-oriented. This culture can be embodied in a work ethics or rules
of work and conduct specific to the project).

M) ISSUE-BASED SUB-TEAMS
Professionals often have the tendency to subdivide the world into sectors, for which,
according to their academic training, they can or cannot claim expertise. But the world does
not consist of sectors it rather consists of issues in which different sectors merge (for ex-
ample: the issues of soil erosion and flooding are cross-sectoral - economic, social, cultural,
technical, etc. - problems). Often enough, change projects need to be supported or at least
accepted by non-specialists, fore example staff in other departments and the general public.
These projects need to make a difference in real life not in sectors. Therefore: Sub-
teams and task assignments within a project should be built around issues, not
along sectoral lines.

N) ADVANCED METHODS
Management of organisational change projects cannot limit its attention only to the produc-
tion of agreed outputs. Equally important is to secure the required political support and to
develop the capacity of the project team to deal with ever more challenging issues. All this
needs to be done within a constantly changing environment and, therefore, flexible time
management. Traditional project planning and management methods are production-
biased and do not support these equally essential dimensions. Therefore: Make use of
advanced project management tools and methodology (e.g. see formats for milestones
in four processes and autonomous task groups, managed by objectives in Krner /
Schwaninger).

Markus Krner
GTZ Urban Management Advisory Service (UMAS)
Addis Ababa
markus@koerner.org

The insights presented here are based on numerous discussions with Mathewos Asfaw, General Manager of
ORAAMP, Theodros Tadesse, Study Teams Co-ordinator of ORAAMP, and Sandra Dierig of the Bauhaus Des-
sau Foundation.

See also: Prof Dr Markus Schwaninger and Markus Krner, Managing Complex Development Projects: A Sys-
temic Toolkit based on the St Gall Management Framework, Discussion Paper, IFB, University of St. Gall, 2001
(downloadable from http://www.ifb.unisg.ch/org/IfB)