The Role and Importance of ‘Glue People’ in Projects
The IUP Journal of Soft Skills, Vol. V, No. 1, pp. 7-15, March 2011
Posted: 27 May 2011
Date Written: May 26, 2011
Almost 40 years ago the importance of liaison roles - a way for management to handle an increasing need to process information - was pointed out. The liaison role, which is described as managerial means to achieve coordination amongst different knowledge domains by facilitating communication, has been a subject of extensive interest during the years. Most of this interest has either focused on (1) the liaison position with no decisional authority, formal power, but is formally established, or (2) the integrating manager which is a formal position with recognized formal authority. This paper aims at highlighting the importance of people in projects. Based on a theoretical underpinning of projects as temporary organizations, and the need for project teams to manage interdependent sets of diverse skills and knowledge sets, within a limited time frame, this paper analyses hands-on project work. The analysis is based on two comprehensive in-depth qualitative case studies, one in the construction industry and the other in the truck industry. Both of these cases focus on the actual everyday work of the project participants. In this paper we argue that ‘glue people’ possess specific soft skills such as: the ability to facilitate communication among professional groups, create commitment, and reduce uncertainty. These are all important skills in order to handle the everyday complexity and manage the interdependent sets of diverse skills and knowledge domains present in temporary organizations. The paper concludes that ‘glue people’ share some characteristics of formal liaisons and integrating managers, but that new novel explanations for understanding ‘glue people’ are necessary.
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