Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Project Management- skill or art?

There is a lot of books on Project Management including newly developed tools on ensuring transparency and tracking progress. Every year there are atleast 2 to 3 major Global projects in every Global company newly launched, while there are already 9 to 10 projects which are running from previous years. While some projects can be limited to a function most projects span across different geographies and functions. There is a strong belief that Project Management can be trained with a program targeted at specific individuals who are currently leading or will lead projects in future. I even heard recently that " Only certified" Project Managers should be assigned Global Projects. Like most management skills for sure Project Management concepts can be taught in a structured program. However if we see the number of projects which don't take off even with full top management support and several other projects which remain successful on paper and window dressed reports, I really wonder if this certified Project Managers can make a consistent success story. After a lot of personal observations I am starting to believe that Project Management is an Art which some individuals master by sheer personality and street smart aptitudes than training.
I will list out why I think it is an art:
1) Usually Project Managers don't have all the cross functional knowledge or span of control on a straight line basis...they have to master the art of identifying the right team members, motivate them and also understand the political dimensions of decisions-when to compromise and whom to take along etc. This cannot be taught in a "Certification program" as this is more feel and situational.
2) The project manager cannot allow himself to be seen as a stooge of top management as it only takes a little distance to use (misuse) the name of big leaders. The more it is used the less powerful the Project Manager becomes. Taking in middle management and understanding what can work in which geographies is key to success. This ofcourse is known but there is on one standard way prescribed in certification programs.
3) The temptation of Project Manager to protect his job, create artificial success feelings and develop pilots to showcase is understandable but if it stretches beyond a limit, the journey downwards starts for the project and the manager. Most projects fail due to this overstretching success stories. This is not taught in classes as a lot of it is self defensive behaviour of every individual
4) The art of managing a project is like managing a fire place with different grades of inflammable material. Some catch fire fast, some slower. But the key is how to keep the heat for a long time to ensure there is action all the time but within control. If this is not managed the fire dies down or burns out too fast. (I am not using the orchestra example as it is overused). The most important element is patience and understanding when the trigger happens to be self sustaining.
I really feel that every high potential employee should be given an opportunity to prove the worth by being assigned a Project of Global stature..if there is mastery of skill or art will be known then. I am also against people close to their retirement assigned some key projects to just keep busy as this kills both the spirit and the value of project management process.

No comments:

About Me

My photo
Gothenburg, Sweden
Still finding introspecting to find who am I? Waiting for a Guru!