Project Management

Description Project Management brings discipline to team efforts. It forces individuals to document the tasks to be performed. It estimates time and resources needed for each task. It lines up tasks in predecessor – successor relationships, critical for a linear R&D approach. It develops contingency plans for delays or unforeseen challenges. Most importantly, project management is overseen by a project manager, who takes personal responsibility for ensuring the project proceeds according to plan. The project manager is in effect a Supervising Contractor who makes sure each one specialty does its job following a schedule that ensures the other specialties have in place what they need when it's time to do their jobs. This is the task master role at its finest.
Weaknesses Good project managers are good at planning, scheduling, knocking heads when individuals are not performing, cajoling, and generally finding ways to keep everyone on schedule and within budget. This has nothing to do with creative endeavors where the endgame is tenuous, the path to the endgame unfolds as the work progresses, and the individuals tend to have bursts of creativity punctuating long periods of thrashing about. We need a Supervising Contractor, but one who is under-the-hood or in-the-field doing the work alongside the technical experts. The Supervisor should have intimate knowledge of the obstacles and opportunities being faced by the teams, mulling along with the team possible ways forward. The supervisor should be someone respected across many of the technical disciplines due to his or her technical expertise in each discipline, and not merely due to organizational skills.
Appropriate Uses

Projects with better-defined goals and better-understood paths to reach those goals benefit from project management. These include me-too+ or product extension research projects.

Project managers - researchers when they're good can be great. These are individuals who combine the technical skills of the researcher with the organizational and leadership skills of the entrepreneur. These individuals should be the foundation of Independent Evaluation+. If we can identify these individuals in an organization they are precious commodities. We merely need to remake their function into one that better supports the World Class R&D objectives.


Further Reading