Greenhouse Canada

Business Management
Growing in the Green: Project management

May 28, 2012
By Melhem Sawaya


The bedding plant season is in its last stretch, and it won’t be long
before many greenhouse operations get into some kind of project to
change their business.

The bedding plant season is in its last stretch, and it won’t be long before many greenhouse operations get into some kind of project to change their business. It could take the form of:

  • Employee evaluations.
  • Programs for next season’s production.
  • Sales targets and marketing plans.
  • Facility expansion or major renovation.
  • Simply putting together the notes made through the year into an organized fashion so that every person in the operation can use or discuss them.

Whatever the case, I would consider each of these a project.

Paperwork needs good coordination among all departments.


In dealing with any project, I have learned through the years that following a planned set of steps and principles gives any project a better chance of being more enjoyable … and much less stressful.

In this and subsequent articles in this series, I would like to share with you some principles and guidelines of effective project management.

During the past 30 years, I have seen many projects involving large sums of money. Taking the time to get acquainted with the basic principles of project management always makes the best use of that money. These principles can also be applied to much smaller projects that might lead to improved efficiency or extra cost, depending on the way you handle each project.

In the last article of this series, I will be sharing with you the different types of projects, and what to consider before utilizing any of them. Such consideration is part of the planning process in any business and the greenhouse sector is no different.

We are going to cover the following:

  1.  Getting the project underway – organizing the team and defining the guidelines.
  2. The task analysis – establishing objectives.
  3. Planning with consideration to time, cost and resources.
  4. Implementation – the art of controlling and adjusting plans, plus trends in project management.

To start with, let us define the following:
Project: This is a group of tasks undertaken to achieve a goal.

Management: Getting things done with your co-workers while assisting them in the process.

Project management: This is working towards a goal while helping employees develop new skills.

The project manager is the most important team member. The success of the project can be tied to the capabilities of this individual. What should this person be like? What makes some project managers consistently successful while others seem to always fall short? The answer to these questions can be summed up in one word, POWER. This describes five of the most important traits – Persistence, Openness, Wisdom, Energy and Responsiveness.

Persistence: There will be a never-ending series of “No” responses to requests. Find another way to ask the question.

Openness: Keeping people informed, which earns their endorsement.

Wisdom: Decisions required of the project manager are seldom black or white; most are shades of grey. And the most important insight is to bring out the best in our co-workers.

Energy: It is generally more than a nine-to-five job and the pace is usually double time! The project leader sets the pace and the team follows the leader. Yes it is contagious! The only way you can keep your energy up is if you are doing the things you like and enjoy.

Responsiveness: A project manager should immediately respond to team members, superiors, peers, and to any warning signals from the project.

Once a team is in place, the most important role of the project manager is to mould and motivate the team. Here are some team-building tips:

Define the purpose and goals of the team. Use a mission statement that allows all participants to tie into a single purpose. Help individuals set goals and succeed.

Establish roles within the team. Define who will do which task (getting the work done), and who will handle the maintenance functions (maintaining relationships with people).

Clarify team rules and responsibilities. Effective teams have clear rules for decision-making and resolving conflict.

Integrate individual personalities. Build a team out of the individual personality strengths of each member.

Manage team performance. Team members want to achieve success together. Keep performance information flowing smoothly. Each team member should receive a letter about the team’s success and the individual’s role must be copied to his/her boss and personal file.

■ A project manager must ask the following questions: what is the logical flow of a project, how should it start, and how do you know when it ends?

There are five steps in a project. Use these steps as guidelines.
Step 1 – Establish the objective.

  1. What is to be accomplished.
  2. Within what time constraints.
  3. Within what cost constraints.

Step 2 – Plan the project.

  1. What tasks are to be involved.
  2. Determine dependencies, lags, etc.
  3. Determine task durations.
  4. Determine costs.
  5. Determine resource requirements.

Step 3 – Implement the project.

  1. Do the work.
  2. Spend the money.
  3. Use resources.

Step 4 – Control the project.

  1. Report the results.
  2. Analyze the reporting.
  3. Note the out-of-control areas.
  4. Determine “why” certain things happened.
  5. Communicate to all concerned.

Step 5 – Adjust as required.

  1. Reschedule.
  2. Change resource allocations.

The second part of the series will look at task analysis and establishing the objective.

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