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Chapter 4 Homework Exam Questions Organisations And Structures

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 3rd July 2014

Having completed chapter 4 try some of the following homework questions and post your questions below and we give you feedback?

  1. Explain the concept of a matrix organisation and describe four advantages of such an approach
  2. Explain five difficulties a project manager may experience when working in a matrix organisation and give examples of how these can be overcome?
  3. List and describe five roles associated with a project and explain their main responsibilities?
  4. Explain how the relationship between the sponsor, project manager and user operate throughout the project lifecycle; make five points in your answer?
  5. List and describe five key activities that a project office may undertake?
  6. Explain five distinct benefits of a project office?

Remember each of the five paragraphs in a answer needs to include 2-3 sentences. According the the APM guidance notes this should include a a statement of fact about the list item that indicates why it has been selected and also a statement(s) clarifying, supporting, demonstrating further comprehension or application thereof. 

I recommend three sentence describing the what, why it is important and then giving an example. So for instance 

1) One benefit of a project office is that it can help to ensure a consistent approach to the delivery of projects in an organisation. It does this by sponsoring a common method for the delivery of projects. This is important because a common approach or method reduced overall project risk and ensure consistency can continuity between projects. For example a project office may define the stages in a project and the mandatory gates that apply to all projects, in this way reducing the risk to the organisation. 

Five more like this and your done for this question. 

  1. Student says:

    Thanks Paul. Much appreciated.

  2. Paul says:

    Francine you answer on the project office is very good. Each paragraph is about the right length with an example included to demonstrate further understanding. The points you make a reliant and technical correct, well done.

    The same for your answer on the difficulties working in a matrix organisation, an answer like this would get good marks in the exam.

    the following paragraph is a bit too brief, and needs an example as shown

    3. Staff motivation.
    The increased variety of work available in a matrix organisation helps keep staff motivated and challenged. This also provides further opportunities for career development and can help improve staff retention. For example a technical member of staff can get to opportunity to work on project for a number of different clients and/or sectors.

  3. Student says:

    Hi Paul, final one today!!

    6.Explain five distinct benefits of a project office?

    Five distinct benefits of a project office are:

    1. A benefit of the project office is the administrative support provided to project managers. This frees up the project manager’s time to focus on project delivery and progress. For example the project office can organise meetings, issue agendas and minutes, chase actions, thereby reducing the administrative workload of the project manager.

    2. The project office may include experts with specialist knowledge. This is a benefit as it can help build organisational capability in a cost effective way by reducing external training costs. For example the project office can coach, mentor and provide guidance to staff on their areas of expertise, such as project tools like Microsoft Project.

    3. A further benefit of the project office is helping ensure consistency of approach across all projects in the organisation. This is important as it increases continuity in project execution and reduces organisational risk. The project office can do this by defining, issuing and ensuring compliance with project standards, procedures and templates across the organisation.

    4. The project office can provide a library or repository of project information. This is important as it helps facilitate a culture of continuous improvement and saves valuable time and effort researching information across the organisation. For example, information on estimates and actuals from previous projects can be easily accessed and lessons identified which can be embedded in to future project estimates.

    5. The project office has access to information relating to all projects across the organisation. This enables the project office to take a helicopter view and can help to identify links and dependencies between projects. This is important as it facilitates improved project planning and helps reduce unexpected delays and risks in project delivery.

    thanks
    Fran

  4. Student says:

    Hi Paul, please could you provide feedback on my answer below:

    Q. 2.Explain five difficulties a project manager may experience when working in a matrix organisation and give examples of how these can be overcome?

    Difficulties which a project manager may experience in a matrix organisation include:

    1. A conflict of priorities with line management.
    Staff are naturally more likely to focus on work priorities as defined by their line manager. This could result in a lack of focus and hence progress on project tasks, with a risk that project milestones are not met. The project manager could mitigate this risk by agreeing priorities, decision making and resource requirements with functional line managers upfront and sharing this with staff at the start of the project. If conflicts continue the project manager will need to meet with functional line managers and use their influencing skills to help reach an agreeable resolution.

    2. Motivation of the project team.
    Project team members in a matrx organisation may become stressed due to the additional workload of managing their project work alongside their day job. This could impact their motivation and have a knock on impact to the successful delivery of the project. The project manager should ensure that all project meetings are purposeful and do not waste valuable time. They could also review workload with the individual to see if additional training could help make tasks more efficient or if additional administrative support could help share the workload burden, budget permitting.

    3. Team development.
    In a matrix organisation, as staff may join and leave the project team throughout its life cycle, it can be more difficult for the project manager to develop a strong, cohesive and therefore effective and productive project team. The project manager can end up spending more time on resolving personnel issues than project execution. Communication can help alleviate this, in particular creating and sharing an organisational breakdown structure and RACI matrix with staff so that they are clear on both their own and the team’s role, responsibiilities, terms of reference and goals. Taking the team out for a team drink or lunch can help speed up team development too.

    4. Limited knowledge regarding resources.
    The project manager may not have knowledge or visibility of the available resources and capabilities across the organisation. This may make the task of team selection more difficult. To overcome this the project manager should pro-actively network with functional line managers to help identify potential resources within functional teams.

    5. Relationship with Project Sponsor.
    The project sponsor may not be the project manager’s functional line manager and therefore they may have little or no previous working relationship. The relationship and trust between the project sponsor and project manager are vital to the success of the project. The project manager should pro-actively invest time and effort in building this relationship and this is best done through regular face to face contact.

    thx
    Fran

  5. Student says:

    Hi Paul, how is my answer below?

    Q. Explain the concept of a matrix organisation and describe four advantages of such an approach.

    A matrix organisation is a cross between a functional organisation and a project organisation structure. Staff report to their (functional) line manager on a day to day basis (for example, head of marketing, head of finance) and project managers draw staff resources from across the breadth of the organisation on an as and when basis. Project managers have authority over staff with regards project related responsibilities and tasks.

    Four advantages of this approach are:

    1. Flexibility and optimisation of staff resources.
    Appropriate resources are assigned to the project on an as and when needs basis. Staff are released from the project when no longer required and can be shared across projects, both of which help minimise staff under utilisation. This approach is particularly useful in smaller organisations which may not be big enough to warrant a dedicated programme management office.

    2. Retention of organisational capability.
    The functional line management ensures specialist skills are developed. As staff remain in the organisation beyond the life of the project, these specialist skills and knowledge are retained. Staff with project management experience are also retained, creating the opportunity for lessons learnt to be embedded within and across the organisation.

    3. Staff motivation.
    The increased variety of work available in a matrix organisation helps keep staff motivated and challenged. This also provides further opportunities for career development and can help improve staff retention.

    4. Recognition of project manager authority.
    A matrix organisation recognises that project managers need to direct others. It is therefore a familiar concept for project managers to have authority over staff working on project activities. There is therefore potentially less confusion amongst the project team regarding decision making for the project.

    Many thx
    Fran

  6. Student says:

    Thanks for the feedback Paul, very constructive. Could you also please comment on answer posted in Chapter 3 homework questions forum, cheers.

  7. Paul says:

    Patrick all good except I might reword this one as

    A matrix organisation also provides the ability to motivate staff in more challenging ways. In a functional organisation there is a very structured career progression in the specialist functions however this can be slow quite restrictive. In a matrix organisation staff who are periodically used on project work will feel a greater sense of worth and contribution to the business activities as a whole, because of a wide range of opportunities.

    Some people prefer the structured nature of a functional organisation for career progression, it is less clear what the career path is in a matrix.

  8. Student says:

    Hi Paul, please see response below, would appreciate some feedback;

    1. Explain the concept of a matrix organisation and describe four advantages of such an approach?

    The concept of a matrix organisation refers to the structure whereby employees report directly to their line manager in the first instance i.e. head of finance, marketing but in addition to this, staff members may also work for the project managers as and when the organisation’s current projects require it.

    An advantage of this type of organisational structure is the skill retention made possible. Usually, say in a project organisation, once the project is completed the project team is no longer needed and so dissolves, thus losing vital skills and knowledge. In a matrix organisation, people and skills are retained even when they may not be working in a project environment.

    Another benefit of a matrix organisation is the greater utilisation of resources. Whilst a functional organisation may see periods where staff are under utilised, a matrix organisation can clearly see staff availability and can use staff on projects should they become available. This greater flexibility allows more efficient use of resources across the business.

    A matrix organisation also provides the ability to motivate staff in more challenging ways. In a functional organisation there is little room for career progression as the roles are very specialised and often fixed where as in a matrix organisation staff who are periodically used on project work will feel a greater sense of worth and contribution to the business activities as a whole.

    Project managers have an authority in a matrix organisation. The organisation recognises that the project manager needs to direct others and utilise specialist skills from within different parts of the organisation when required. The organisation can support the project manager in this task and are familiar with the requirements.

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