Projects in the South African building and construction industry
The Building-Construction Industry has been in a slump since 2009 and many companies have laid off their workers and some have since gone bankrupt. According to the Outlook for South Africa’s Construction Industry (2018), the confidence in the construction-building industry plummeted to a 17-year low in 2017. Factors such as policy uncertainty, the slow economic growth, the underperforming rand, and the key factors that governments drive to divide projects into smaller components that support emerging black empowerment-based SMMEs have all led to the rationalization of the industry. The effect is that more emerging black empowerment-based SMMEs are entering the construction and building industry. Cameron (1998) in his studies has highlighted that during retrenchments and uncertainty in the job labor market a decline in organizational loyalty and job satisfaction is observed in the employees in the workplace. The effect is that the employees tend to concentrate less on their tasks, and neglect project objectives such as quality, product execution, and completion which lead to stagnation and low productivity in the workplace. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the company and project managers, in general, to continuously enhance the morale of employees. Mϋller and Turner (2007) argue that the project manager’s influence can enhance project success.
The project manager’s understanding of project management and their experiences
with project management in the building and construction business
Project managers play a key role in the highly complex business and competitive industry of building and construction. Therefore, it is important to understand their personal and conceptual view of project management and how it contributes to the successful completion of projects. A vital part of project management is the personal characteristics of the project manager. The project manager is a key factor for the successful execution of the project and therefore requires certain skills and competencies.
According to Bell (2013:9) the project manager is responsible for managing resources such as time, money, people, facilities, equipment, materials, information, and technology; relationships such as the team, suppliers, and stakeholders; and is also responsible for the requirements of the project and how to manage the risks. The size of the company influences how different projects are managed. Big companies have a complex business model and they have to constantly attend to crises on the operational side of the business. The project managers are required to manage multiple projects and that is often a concern due to the complex nature of the business. The operations manager plays a key role in liaising with the other project managers in terms of the scope and execution of the projects. The operations managers are the only ones in the business that has received training in the Triple Constraints Theory of project management. Despite their formal qualifications, project managers have recognized the importance of understanding project management, how to follow the project management plan, developing good planning, and the importance of accountability systems. It is often found that companies have an informal mentoring system whereby new people and artisans are mentored and trained. For most project managers the big projects that the company gets are an indication for them personally that they are successful in what they do.
In their personal and conceptual view, many fail to identify the importance of the personal characteristics of the project managers and that people management is part of the project management process. Pant and Baroudi (2008: 124) stress that managing projects successfully requires a mixture of skills including interpersonal ability, technical competencies, and cognitive aptitude, along with the capability to understand the situation and the people and then dynamically integrate appropriate leadership behaviors. Project management in their view is only restricted to the project management plan and the execution of the deliverables. The Project Management Competency Framework (PMCD) identifies three ‘dimensions’ of competence (Project Management Institute 2007): knowledge, personal, and performance. Knowledge refers to what the project manager knows about project management. Performance refers to what the project manager can do or accomplish while applying their project management knowledge. Personal refers to how the project manager behaves when performing the project or related activity. In their context there exists an over-emphasis on the technical side of the operations, the execution of the project plan, and very little on the personal contribution of the project manager. According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), project management is a people-oriented profession. It is important for a project manager to possess skills that enable effective interaction with others. The improvements in personal competencies will enhance a project manager’s ability to use knowledge and performance competence effectively on projects.
For project managers to successfully complete projects they have identified the following key components of project management namely, to complete the project, follow the strategic plan, and know-how to monitor the project plan. They have also identified that the lack of skilled staff, absenteeism, and how to deal with diversity in the workplace are major challenges that could affect the successful completion of projects. It could be argued that the lack of proper people management skills of project managers could contribute to the high levels of absenteeism in the company. The company has to invest in providing proper and in-depth training in project management so that the project managers have a fairly comprehensive understanding of project management.
Many authors have acknowledged the link between emotions and leadership (Goleman, 2006; Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso, 2004). The ever-changing business environment has increased the need for leaders who can make an emotional connection with their teams and motivate them to achieve their goals. This kind of behavior is based on the characteristics of Emotional Intelligence. Authors have also found a correlation between Emotional Intelligence, leadership management style, and positive organizational performance.
Academic research has validated that emotional intelligence competencies, skills, and abilities hold the key to greater career success. This comprises 80% of employee success, distinguishing the best from the average. All managers, leaders, policymakers, public servants, project managers, and executive management, regardless of their professional fields have the responsibility to and must learn emotional intelligence capabilities. The knowledge and awareness linked to emotional intelligence will help them to have a better understanding of their constituents, as well as better control of their temper, frustrations, behavior, performance, and communication. Emotional intelligence creates the foundation indeed for all facets of life and makes for a better world!
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