Distinguish Project Management from General Management

Some scholars argue that there is no difference between project management and general management. They had propounded that the skills needed in the project manager and general manager are the same and that their roles overlap.  However, the author of this paper will distinguish project management from general management even though some feel that there is no difference between the two.
The author is going to define the following terms:  project, project management and general management.  The project management institute has defined a project as “A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or source” Meredik J. and Mantel S.J.Jr 2001;167 as a temporary group activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result.  The Wikipedia.org defines project management as the “discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end”.  Kerzner K (1984:4) had defined project management as “the planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of company resources for a relatively short-term objective that has been established to complete specific goals and objectives”.  General management can also be defined as line management; it is a continuous process with no time limits or deadlines.
The difference between project management and general management which can be called operations is that operations are ongoing, continuous and repetitive activities in an organization such as accounting, finance, or production.  On the other hand, projects are specific tasks that have a beginning and an end such as working on developing a new product.
Agate on project management.com says, “From my experience differences between general management and project management is the later’s emphasis on scheduling”.  Project managers are more specialists and focus on a particular project (could be both strategic and tactical).  General Managers on the other hand may not have light deadlines and are generalists and tend to focus on operations (though they can overlook/mange individual projects.
Project managers are often put in place to cure, improve, correct or realize gains that general managers have not been willing, to undertake.  Herzner H 1984:11 agrees with the above statement when he says “To be effective as a project manager, an individual must have management as well as technical skills”.  No one can be able to cure, improve, correct, or realize gains without the requisite skills to do so.
The project manager’s job is not very easy because of his/her social/political realities in the organizational structure.  Usually, general managers carry a large political burden while project managers carry a much smaller political overhead.  Herzner H 1984:9 puts it this way “Managers (project) may have increasing responsibility but very little authority.  This lack of authority can force them to “negotiate” with upper-level management as well as functional management for control of company resources…  They may often be treated as outsides by the format organization”.  In short the general manager macro-manages while the project manager micro-manages.  That is, a good general manager macro manages, empowers and delegates, and demonstrates situational leadership skills.  A good project manager micro manages, plans and controls, and demonstrates process and best practice leadership skills.
Jucan G. on www.projectmanagement.com says there are issue which differentiates project management and general management.  He says a project manager assembles a competent team of people, sometimes drawn from different departments of the organization a team which can be disbanded even in few weeks at the end of the project.  Line managers do work with staff members established in his/her department competent or not for “eternity”.  The project manager lacks authority to discipline staff under his control but the line manager does have such power.
Juncan G. goes on to say project management do not usually have such powers; those powers may be versed in other departments such as the buying department.  Line mangers do not have control over the human resources costs because they have people assigned to them eight hours a day no matter what, so they only have to give them something to do.  On the other hand project mangers need to make efficient use of all material and human resources, as everything becomes a project cost.
The differences between general management and project have to do with roles of the project manager and general manager.  Though, these people should always have overlapping responsibility.  In a matrix organization the role of a project manages is to focus on the needs of the project and the general manager is to focus on the capacity of the team.
Project management is different to general management in the sense that projects are initiated by general management (general managers) and hand over to project managers.  Kerzner says “the project manager actually works for the line managers, not vice versa.  Whenever the project succeeds credit goes to the line managers who are continually pressured to make better use of their resources.  The project manager is simply the agent through whom this is accomplished.”  So, general management entails management of several projects of the organization while project management manages a single particular project of the organization.

The author had attempted to differentiate between project and general management.  He had identified that project management is micro-management of the organization.  The project manager had limited resources such as money, personnel etcetera, resources which he is “loaned” by general or line managers.  The project managers lacks authority over his staff while the general manager had unlimited authority.  However, project management needs managers with peculiar skills, to solve problems, to cure and heal while general management needs managers with general management skills to supervise a number of projects.

Kerner H, 1983, Project Management A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and controlling, 2nd Edition, CBS Publishers & Distributors Pvt Ltd
www.projectmanagement.com/discusson-topic/7318 Project-vs-General-Management

Etiwel Mutero holds a Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 0773614293 or etiwelm02@gmail.com

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