Effective project managers are required to have both “hard” technical skills to help control the iron triangle of time, cost and functional scope as well as relationship management skills to work effectively with people and get the best out of them. This paper argues that project managers also need a third skill: we refer to it as tapping into the power lines. This is a skill beyond the management of schedules, budgets and milestones, beyond leading project teams or managing suppliers and users, and even beyond what is commonly regarded as managing a project's senior stakeholders. The hypothesis, based on data gathered from three case studies, is that there is a need for project managers to be skilled in managing at the third dimension in large organizations; to understand the need for, have the ability, and be willing, to “tap into the power grid” of influence that surrounds all projects, particularly in large organizations. Without third dimension skills, project managers and their organizations will find delivering successful project increasingly more difficult. The second part of this paper will discuss how project managers might achieve competence in managing the third dimension both through individual effort and with the support of the learning organization.
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