Project management: the human factors

Project management: the human factors


Managing a project can’t be easy, especially in a large company, where all the different levels of workers do their own part of the project and have separate ideas that may or may not fit in with that of another other project level.  On top of these, human factors that have no direct relation to project management as such will have an effect on performance, because we are..well, human.


For instance, locus of control, has been show to have an effect in the work environment.  Locus of control can be internal and external. A study (Eby et al., 2006) showed that if workers had internal locus of control (means that people believe that events result from internal factors, such as own behaviour), they were more likely to work better, and have better motivation at work. This suggests that as well as organising which team should do a particular task, a manager who wants to achieve the best work productivity should also aim to ensure that the workers all have a high internal locus of control.


Another human factor that a good manager should take into account is human physiology.  Let me explain exactly what I mean by this. I went clubbing in Shoreditch a few days ago. I had a great night, dancing with the saxophone player of an electro swing night at the Book Club. However, coming back from the dancing with some friends, I realised that I had lost my bank card. I immediately called the NatWest helpline and a very chipper girl, of approximately my age (yes, yes, I did judge her age by voice) helped me to cancel access to my card. For about 5 minutes, I was quite pleased and impressed with NatWest. Now isn’t that a great service, if you can cancel your card 24/7?! So great! And then I realised that it was 4 a.m. and stopped being so pleased about it. This poor girl (I imagined a version of myself, sitting on the phone in the middle of the night, glugging cup after cup of tasteless coffee  just to get through one more night) has to stay awake at this hour, just so that very silly people can call her to be annoying about stolen cards! Not fair, really, is it. And the problem is, people are quite happy to do this to themselves, as companies will pay for it.


Whilst 24/7 service is very useful, I feel that the serious detrimental effects of shift work on health are often overlooked. Effects can range from cluster headaches (APA, 2005), to developing heart disease (Knutsson, et al., 1986) and breast caner (Coehn, 1978) later in life. I am personally not convinced that media is not exaggerating the negative effects of shift work on health, but I feel that it is certainly an issue that should be taken into account. There seem to be different methods for managing shifts appropriately, and it would be up to the particular manager to choose which method is preferred based on the type of project and also on what they believe would be best for the workers’ health.


Therefore, as human factors such as locus of control and shift work can have negative effects on performance, a successful manager has to account for them as well as for actually managing the project in terms of deciding who does what and at which time.


A related concluding note:

Air traffic controllers work 30-minutes on, 30 minutes off as otherwise performance is affected. I want breaks every half an hour! Future job?






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