Project Manager/Project Staff Fit: Does it Matter?

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The adhoc nature of project organizations necessitates putting together new teams at the start of almost every project. This could be unsettling for people who are coming into the project to work with people that they may have never worked with before. People have to adjust, find common ground, and be ready for an environment they may not feel fully engaged. So, the fit and alignment among various cadres of staff and the environment are critical to the smooth functioning of a project organization.

Not only is the fit in-between staff members important, but the fit between the project manager and the project staff is vital too. The non-existence of such a fit could even stall a project. Particularly, as projects are focused on delivery and faced with constraints of time and budget, it is not always easy to focus on spending time and money on activities (e.g., cohesion between manager and staff or relationships among staff) that are not considered or seen as contributing directly to the achievement of project deliverables.

There are studies that have looked at person-environment fit and the effects of leader-member exchange in a project organization context. But it seems more needs to be done to understand if it really matters to have a project manager-project staff fit and the challenges in developing such a fit.

One of the key challenges to achieving such a fit is unplanned staffing. When staffing is done just to fill the gaps, it could lead to bringing in people that may find it challenging to develop synergies and work cohesively. In particular, in organizations that lack project management maturity (which, in hindsight, is often the case), people with little understanding of project management make staffing decisions for projects. That could lead to unplanned staffing and, consequently, a lack of fit.

In hindsight, more than 90% of organizations worldwide are small-to-medium enterprises. As such, it is expected that they will not have dedicated project management staff or resources to handle projects. Therefore, functional managers handle projects or serve as project managers. In such circumstances, it is unavoidable not to have gaps in the thinking and working of staff and the project manager as functional managers lack the project management expertise, resulting in a lack of project manager-project staff fit.

Other difficulties include a lack of staff training, outside project influences, a lack of synergies between manager and staff, and personality differences.


It would be stating the obvious that people are the most critical element to delivering a project successfully. Therefore, cohesion among the people has to be there to perform work as per client requirements. In particular, a good working synergy between the project manager and the project staff is essential to keep things on track and allow the project manager to lead the team members to deliver the project output.

Despite its importance and some work on understanding the complexities involved in project manager-project staff relationships, a thorough understanding of how project manager–project staff fit can be achieved is warranted.

To advance further thought processes in this context, we have looked at some of the potential challenges to achieving such a fit. Of particular focus in this regard is the human behavioral aspects and the lack of project management expertise within organizations. Project management is often not the core activity in organizations. It necessitates functional managers and staff handling projects, which could lead to issues in how projects are staffed, and a potential lack of project manager-project staff fit.

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Jiwat Ram
Jiwat Ram
Jiwat is currently working as a Professor in Project management at Excelia Business School France. He did his Ph.D. from the University of South Australia and MBA in International Business from AIT Thailand. Jiwat has over 20 years experience of working in industry across banking, construction, service, and education sectors in an international setting. For the last more than 10 years, Jiwat has worked in academia teaching at Executive Education, Master’s, and bachelor’s levels. His teaching includes courses on Artificial Intelligence, project management, management, and research methodology. Jiwat has published his research work in top-tier, high-impact factor journals including the International Journal of Production Economics, the International Journal of Project Management, Computers in Human Behaviour, the Journal of Global Information Management, and Enterprise Information Systems, among others. Combining academic and non-academic work, he has published over 100 articles in journals, conferences and industry outlets. His published work has been well received and four of his published papers have ranked in the Top 25 most downloaded papers from ScienceDirect. His two papers have been ranked in the Top 25 Most Cited articles as well. Jiwat’s research is focused on the impacts of technologies such as Social Media, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence on businesses and society. Jiwat likes to understand how we can leverage upon the use of innovative technologies for business growth and productivity. Jiwat regularly contributes towards the development of new thought and ideas in business and technology management. As such, he has a growing portfolio of publications on some of the contemporary issues in the management of projects and organizations. Jiwat also publishes his work on social media platform Linkedin to connect and reach out to other industry professionals. His work has received a good following with a significant number of posts cited as reaching top 1% engagement on Linkedin. Jiwat’s content on LinkedIn can be accessed at: #ideannovation_jiwat Please feel free to connect with Jiwat on LinkedIn by clicking on the Icon above.

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