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The Human Factor and its Impact on Project Management

It is the human factor that makes our role as project managers unique. While I would like to say that most of my time is spent managing the parameters that quantify project success, albeit schedule, cost, and quality, it is not the case. About 30% of my time is managing project factors. The other 70% is focused on the psychological influences at play that may take hold of the project timeline and cause major delays. People behavior is one of the key factors that drive successful project management. It is essential that behavior, emotions and culture be well understood by project managers.

It starts with understanding company culture and how things are done. Since culture influences the means in which people do business, it is one of the most important psychological factors to get ahead of. It is imperative that as project managers we not only understand our organization's culture, but are able to interpret what it means for the project team and timeline. This means studying the culture, analyzing it, and adjusting or adapting timelines to accommodate it. This may equate to adding buffers around key internal and external meetings, knowing that certain stakeholders may take more time than what is contractually allotted. This helps "keep the peace" by providing stakeholders with more time around milestones that are not (yet) critical.

We also need to focus on our communication. Particularly, the exchange of information between project team members and stakeholders.

Without a conducive environment for nurturing positive people interactions, communication may remain dormant for fear of "saying something wrong."

Poor communication can lead to missed milestones, which may cause major delays to timelines. As project managers, we should look to keep the line of communication open so that it caters to the basic needs of the project team and stakeholders. We should also cultivate an environment where people will come to us for just about anything, even if they know it is not in our wheel house. This is affirmation that we have established a positive communication channel. By doing so, project team members are unafraid to bring up potential issues and risks to the project schedule. This communication can then be managed by us if escalations are required to project stakeholders.

In order to deliver projects successfully, there must be an understanding of the psychological factors at work in the project timeline. Managing the schedules is not just about checking off dates, but managing the human factor - the people, personalities, culture, and other factors that can impact the timeline. Project managers MUST also be able to manage the unique interactions people have within the project and outside of it (environmental factors) (Murthy & Streenivas, 2019). This is critical to cultivating an environment that puts a positive spin on the psychological factors at work, which is needed for successful project schedule management.



Murthy, A. & Sreenivas, S. (2019). Does people behavior impact projects? How? And what do we do about it? Retrieved from

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