Monday, December 17, 2012

New Breed of Project Managers


In a parent-teacher meeting, a question came up on what my son wanted to be when he grew up. When he expressed about his dream of becoming an IT Project Manager, the teacher appeared clueless. Perhaps, a doctor or a lawyer or computer engineer would have satisfied the teacher. That left me wondering why there is no recognition of the role of project managers despite the growing demands to successfully deliver various types of projects.
Fundamentally, the role of project management is still not perceived effective and can be grouped into individual’s lack of passion to the field, management’s myopic vision in preparing individuals, and lack of job expectations of project managers.

If a .Net programmer has to know basics of programming and exception handling, data or data administrator understand the details of SQL, member of the financial management team understand the differences between balance sheet and cash flow statements, construction engineer understand the codes expected to ensure safety of work in the construction site, what are the expectations of a project manager? Project Management Institute proposes minimum of general business skills, application area skills, and project management skills and if those that do well as a customer service representative, lead team developer, QA team lead, or account personnel are asked to take on managing projects, how many are exposed to the project management domain areas of risk identification, critical path requirements, team motivation strategies, etc.?

Either the management retains the responsibility to properly train such career growth initiatives with adequate training or the individuals exhibit passion to learn the pulse of the profession. Downgrading their expertise to learning Office Suite of products to help them do basic what if scenarios in Microsoft Excel develop charter or provide status or communication reports using Microsoft Word, and do simple task management using Microsoft Project seem to have developed the task oriented accidental project managers. The net impact is the profession lacks the credibility like a programmer or tester.

This perception has to be managed and project managers must become attuned to the industry and application domain knowledge, organize their project using proactively managing the tasks and establishing clear roles, understand the need to negotiate with stakeholders and team to provide the optimum business value with minimally marketable features, and resonate with the individuals energizing and empowering the team to success.  Such strategic project managers that come to or stay in the profession by choice will enrich the field of project management.

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