Knowing When You Need Help

Mary Hardiman

Lori Cook

MGT 598


“Property development: becoming your own project manager, or hiring in outside help?”

The article “Property development: becoming your own project manager, or hiring in outside help?” written by Paul Naybour brings important pointers to the surface. Companies must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of either assuming the responsibilities of a project manager themselves or hiring a project manager to assume those responsibilities. It is recurring question that requires thorough research and consideration before an answer can be reached.

Inf act, this was a question that was raised at my current workplace. My company had decided to create a new company offering to customers – the procurement of new plant construction (N.P.C.). Shortly after having started this new endeavor two years ago, my company realized that they may have bit off more than they could chew. They missed important project deadlines, underestimated the risk of the project, overestimated the budget of the project, etc. This resulted in a chaotic web of problems which were due to both a lack of time, experience and knowledge within our company. It was a struggle that the management team tried to juggle for nearly two years, but they realized that a change needed to be made in managing the N.P.C. project.

In the article, Naybour mentions a couple of factors to consider a company must decipher whether there is either the need or lack of need for a new Project Manager hire. First, the time frame of the project must be considered (“Property Development”). The project must be completed by a given deadline. The company must decide whether they can finish the project internally or if they need external help to finish the project. Second, the amount of the Project Manager’s experience must be considered (“Property Development”). If the project requires a considerable amount of knowledge/experience, the company must assess if they are qualified to complete the project. These are a couple of points to consider when deciding to use internal employees or find external candidates to complete the project.

My company assessed the situation and recognized the need for a new full-time Project Manager hire. Ideally, they wanted a manager with both nuclear project management and N.P.C. experience. However, the pool of candidates with both nuclear N.P.C. experience was very small. They were unable to find a candidate that met both of those requirements. Even if they had recruited a candidate that met those ideal requirements, this new hire most likely would have needed a high salary and fallen outside of my company’s budget. This was why they chose to hire a fairly recent undergraduate student with a degree in mechanical engineering. This new hire was new to the nuclear industry and new to the working world. My company decided to go this route to keep within their budget for the project. This was a thrifty alternative that allowed them to keep within their budget as well as fill the N.P.C. project holes that had previously existed. As discussed in class, this could be considered one of the Project Priority Matrix’s “tradeoffs” (“Defining the Project,” slide 10). My company decided to prioritize the need to meet their budget and fill the full-time position as the first priority while putting the experience/knowledge of the new hire as secondary. Nevertheless, the new hire added value to the N.P.C. endeavor and continues to gain the experience/knowledge at my company.

Works Cited

Cook, Lori. “Defining the Project.” MGT 598: Project Management. DePaul University, Chicago. 11 July 2015. Lecture.

Naybour, Paul. “Property Development: Becoming Your Own Project Manager, or Hiring in outside Help? Project Accelerator News.” Project Accelerator News. Project Accelerator News, 17 June 2015. Web. 11 July 2015.

4 thoughts on “Knowing When You Need Help

  1. Thanks for the insightful post Mary. This grabbed my eye for a couple reasons.

    First, through managing various construction projects, I have worked with clients’ project managers that were both in-house and third party. I could definitely tell a difference in their effectiveness throughout the course of the project. Third party project managers are oftentimes brought in as subject matter experts and know how to complete a specific type of project successfully, but oftentimes have difficulty navigating through the host company’s corporate structure and practices. Conversely, project managers in-house don’t always have the expertise on the details of the project, but know how to engage their resources better.

    As my second point, as my company has been getting busier, we have been engaging third party managers to control certain aspects of projects. I was skeptical of how it was going to work, but I have seen successes I would not have predicted. I believe that this is due to the onboarding of these managers with adequate time to get accustomed to the team. I would suggest this to anyone considering bringing in outside help. After all, having a project adequately managed is oftentimes worth the cost of bringing in these employees.

  2. I would think it is very risky bringing in a graduate student to fill the project manager position. There is the decrease in cost because they are cheaper, but the project risks exposure to greater risk because they do not have the specific knowledge and expertise. I see in this situation it paid off and they were able to manage budget and performance. As an FA on a major project there is a lot of room for error with even small mistakes. It is best to evaluate the situation and see what makes the most sense, the experience or the budget.

    Question for your example specifically, was there any risk put aside for bringing on a new and less experienced project manager? What sort of analysis was done by the project team?

  3. My company has the same issues with not knowing they need help until it is too late. I also work for an engineering company. The amount of knowledge/experience needed to be able to effectively contribute to our team is requires either a lot of training or poaching someone from a competitor ($$$). This means it’s necessary to know well in advance when you will need help.

    I was also surprised that the ME was hired fresh out of college since I expect a lot of training is/was required. However, in addition to staying within budget, at least you also start with a clean slate. Sometimes it can still take experienced hires time to learn their way around a new company and sometimes they decide that they just straight up don’t agree with the way things are done at a new company.

  4. My company had a similar need during an outsourcing project I was a part of….. but the outcome of the new Project Manager hire … was not so favorable. We needed a PM, and we needed him fast. Although we did have a reasonable budget to hire a qualified person, what we lacked was the time. The project already started, the company was faced with the need to find a solution fast. The company didn’t have the luxury of time to be selective, so they hired the first available, semi-qualified candidate. He was young and eager. The salary that we offered him was a lot more than he expected and a lot more than what he used to make. I have to admit; he had good intentions and was motivated (probably by the money) to work hard. But what he lacked was business acumen, experience, industry knowledge, leadership skills, presentation skills and the ability to make a decision on his own. In fact, it took him forever to make a decision as he had the need to solicit everybody’s opinion.

    The project was a big failure. We missed our deadline; wasted a lot of resources; and the person who hired him lost his job. (I was so tempted to tell him “I told you so!”)

    And our new PM? He is still with the company! He has accelerated his learning process… along with premature aging. At least he now looks like he is the right salary grade for the job he still holds.

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