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Case: Etat AS

Etat is a public organization that offers services to both individuals and businesses. At its establishment 20 years ago, Etat chose a hierarchical organizational structure with departments taking care of the work tasks. However, since a new manager took over the responsibility for Etat two years ago, more and more tasks have been organized as projects.

This has also been reflected in the job vacancies for project managers and project employees that Etat has advertised. Today, a significant part of the value creation in the organization happens through projects. A consequence of this development is that the employees have divided into two groups, those who work in projects and those who work in the base organization.

Discuss the unfortunate consequences that result from the employees being split into such groups.

Mette Olsen was employed by Etat seven months ago. The job advertisement stated that she should expect to work in several projects. Mette was newly graduated and full of enthusiasm and energy when she got the job, which sounded both challenging and interesting. Over the past few months, she has been given two new projects to work with in addition to three that she was already involved in. While she enjoyed working in projects, there was a limit. In addition to overtime several days a week, she also had to take work home on the weekends. When employees are split into two groups, with some working on multiple projects simultaneously and experiencing a high workload, it can have several unfortunate consequences:

Increased stress and burnout: Working on multiple projects at the same time and handling a high workload can lead to increased stress among employees. If they do not get adequate time and resources to handle their tasks, they can experience burnout and reduced job satisfaction.

Reduced work quality: When employees have to balance multiple projects at once, it can result in attention and resources being spread thin. This can affect the quality of work and lead to tasks not being carried out satisfactorily. It can also be challenging to maintain focus and concentration when constantly switching between different projects.

Lack of work-life balance: If employees are required to take work home and work overtime regularly, it can negatively impact their work-life balance. They may experience an imbalance between work and personal life, with limited time and energy to take care of themselves, engage in leisure activities and maintain healthy relationships outside the workplace.

Reduced motivation and engagement: When employees experience constant high workload and lack of time to focus on individual projects, it can lead to reduced motivation and engagement. They can feel overworked and exhausted, and this can affect their level of effort, productivity and job satisfaction.

Risk of errors and deficiencies: When employees work on multiple projects simultaneously and feel the pressure of a high workload, there is a greater risk of errors and deficiencies. They may miss important details, overlook errors or not have sufficient time for thorough quality control. This can negatively impact project results and lead to costly consequences for the organization.

To avoid these unfortunate consequences, it is important that the organization assesses and balances the workload of the employees. This might involve allocating resources in a more efficient manner, setting realistic deadlines and providing sufficient support and guidance for employees working on multiple projects simultaneously. Work-life balance should also be prioritized to ensure that employees have time and energy to recover and maintain their motivation and engagement.

Discuss the consequences of participating in five projects and the large workload on Mette’s motivation.

Participation in five projects with a large workload can have several consequences for Mette’s motivation:

Reduced motivation and engagement: When the workload becomes too large and one has to balance participation in several projects simultaneously, it can lead to a decrease in Mette’s motivation and engagement. She might feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and experience a lack of a sense of accomplishment. It could be challenging to maintain enthusiasm and dedication to the projects when she is constantly pressured and does not have sufficient time and resources to deliver her best.

Loss of interest and job satisfaction: When the workload becomes too large and work consumes most of Mette’s time and energy, she could lose interest in the projects and work in general. She might feel that her job is routine and not rewarding, which could affect her job satisfaction. Loss of interest could also lead to reduced creativity and innovation ability, which can be disadvantageous for the projects she is involved in.

Stress and burnout: The large workload and participation in five projects could cause a high level of stress for Mette. She might feel pressured by tight deadlines, high expectations, and the need to deliver quality in all the projects simultaneously. Over time, this can lead to burnout, where Mette experiences physical and mental exhaustion, loss of energy, and feeling worn out. This can negatively impact her overall motivation and work capacity.

Reduced work quality: When one has limited time and resources due to participation in multiple projects simultaneously, it could lead to reduced work quality. Mette might feel that she does not have sufficient time to perform tasks thoroughly and carefully, which could result in errors, deficiencies, or poorer results. This could affect her pride and satisfaction in her own work, and reduced work quality could also impact the projects and client’s trust in her competence.

Lack of work-life balance: The large workload and participation in five projects could lead to an imbalance between work and personal life for Mette. She might feel that work consumes most of her time and energy, leaving little room for leisure, rest, and recreation. Lack of balance between work and personal life could affect her well-being, and it could be challenging to maintain motivation when one does not have time to take care of oneself and personal needs.

To address these consequences, it’s important that Mette and her leaders tackle the workload and work on finding solutions. This could include distributing resources and tasks more efficiently, prioritizing and planning better, and seeking support from colleagues and leaders to relieve Mette. It’s also essential to promote a culture that values work-life balance and takes care of employees’ job satisfaction and motivation. This can be done through measures such as flexible working hours, encouraging time off and holidays, and recognition and rewards for good work performance.

Discuss the types of personnel problems that often arise in relation to project work.

In the context of project work, a variety of personnel problems may arise that can impact individual employees and the entire project team. Some common personnel problems that often crop up in relation to project work include:

Lack of clear role definition: In project teams, confusion can arise about the roles and responsibilities that individual members have. This can lead to overlaps or gaps in responsibility, which can create conflicts and inefficiencies.

Communication problems: Communication is crucial for a well-functioning project team. Lack of or poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, misinformation and delays. Problems can also arise with communication across team members from different backgrounds or language barriers.

Conflicts and disagreements: Projects can be complex and involve various stakeholders and team members with different viewpoints and interests. This can lead to conflicts and disagreements, whether it’s related to decisions, work methods or priorities. Unresolved conflicts can have a negative impact on the collaboration and working environment of the project.

Lack of resources: Resource scarcity can be a common problem in project work. There may be challenges related to the access to necessary equipment, technology, budget or expertise. The lack of necessary resources can lead to frustration, delays or reduced quality in the project.

Lack of motivation: Projects can be demanding and involve long working hours, tight deadlines and high expectations. This can affect the motivation of team members, especially if they feel that their efforts are not sufficiently recognized or rewarded. Lack of motivation can affect the work quality and productivity of the project.

To handle these personnel problems in relation to project work, good leadership and effective team management are important. This includes clear role definition, clear communication channels and processes, conflict resolution and conflict management, securing sufficient resources, and maintaining high motivation through recognition, rewards, and support. Good team dynamics, a positive working environment, and a culture that promotes collaboration and trust are also important factors in reducing and resolving personnel problems in project work.

A project manager once commented, “Only large companies like Statoil, Telenor and the Google can afford to have their own project office. This is not applicable for smaller businesses.” Discuss what you think is crucial for a business to establish its own project office.

Establishing a dedicated project office can be a valuable investment for any business, regardless of size. The decision to establish a project office should not only be based on financial resources but also on other important factors. Here are some crucial points that should be considered:

Project portfolio and scope: If the business has a significant portfolio of projects or is working on projects of great complexity and scope, a project office may be necessary. A project office can help to coordinate and optimize resource allocation, standardize project methodology, and share best practices across the projects.

Maturity level: Organizations with high maturity and an established project management framework often have a greater need for a project office. If the business has already implemented project management methodology, processes, and tools, a project office can help to support and improve these initiatives.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing: If the business values collaboration, knowledge sharing, and learning across projects, a project office may be a good solution. The project office can facilitate the exchange of experiences, standardization of processes and tools, and help to build a knowledge-based environment.

Risk management and quality control: A project office can be especially valuable for businesses that want to strengthen their ability to manage risk and quality control. Through the establishment of standards, methods and processes, the project office can help to identify, analyze and manage risks in a systematic way.

Organizational culture and strategic goals: The organizational culture and strategic objectives should also be considered when contemplating the establishment of a project office. If the business has a culture that supports project-based work and wants to increase its project execution capability, a project office can be a valuable resource.

It is important to note that a project office does not necessarily have to be large or costly. It can be tailored to the needs and size of the business. Even smaller organizations can benefit from a project office by adapting it to their resources and goals. A well-functioning project office can help to improve project deliveries, streamline project execution and support the business’s strategic goals.

This case is taken from the book “Prosjektledelse – fra initiering til gevinstrealisering” – 2016, 4. Edition, by Jan Terje Karlsen.

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