A win-win approach to project managers' development

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As president of PMI France-Sud, I was often told by different companies: "We're not very good at Project Management!" And my comment back to them was: "So, what are you going to do about it?".

Indeed, some companies have poor project management capabilities. But are they just "getting what they deserve" for the lack of attention they pay to this tough profession? Developing a robust project management capability is an obligation in most companies nowadays.

The development of Project Management as a profession needs to be:

1. managed: a clear professional development framework for Project Managers.

You need to clearly define an internal certification path for people who are entering this profession in your company. I commented already about the benefits of certifications such as PMP®. In my opinion though, this is only a starting point to ensure that we share a common language; an understanding of PM processes and industry recognized body of knowledge for the profession. Past this initial base ground, you will need to develop your own internal Project Management certification path. Nothing overly complex is required, just a clear and simple model supported by external certifications and/or internal ones. For example, one could implement 4 levels of PM expertise within his company to reflect his projects' complexity based on budget, size, durations, strategic importance. Let's name these 4 levels: Associate PM, Confirmed PM, Senior PM and Executive PM. Moving from one level to the next may happen via certifications, exams, peers or board reviews. To keep it simple: Junior PMs would start as associate PMs, then run their own significant project(s) as confirmed PMs, take on bigger, riskier, more strategic projects as Senior PMs and eventually reach an "executive" PM type level for mission/business critical projects or programmes.

It needs to be accompanied all along by a collaborative electronic environment where PMs can share documents, learn from prior projects and get coaching and advice from peers and experts via forums, blogs or wikis for example.

In order to implement such a structured approach you're likely to need a Project Management Center Of Excellence (or Project Management Office). It does not need to be heavy nor bureaucratic to accomplish its primary missions:

  • to develop and continuously improve methods;
  • develop and support a specific training curriculum;
  • gather lessons learned and share best practices;
  • drive the professional certification process;
  • and eventually provide audit/consulting assistance to projects and PMs.

 

2. facilitated and animated: an active community of professionals

You will want to create a strong community of Project Managers as these resources are both scarce and critical to your business. In my experience, such a community of practice is most effective when lead from the inside of each division or department. So, I suggest starting by identifying PMs interested in learning from others and sharing their experience in a proactive manner. These will be seeds in the divisions and departments to get the local PMs to contribute and participate into the community of PMs. Some may develop qualities of coaches for more junior PMs (and you will encourage this of course); others may be suitable to participate in internal certification boards that you'll use to move PMs up the ladder; others may demonstrate superior ability at using the web 2.0 collaboration tools (blogs, wikis, forums) that you'll put in place for the profession to develop... Putting in place a reward programme for PMs and setting up dedicated. PM Days for project managers share experience and best practices is also very valuable.

why is this a win-win?

Because it is in the interest of the company

  • Risks are managed more effectively: Starting with the basics of PM: a proper definition of projects; solid governance in place; and identified and proactively managed risks.
  • Productivity increases with clear definition of roles, responsibilities and deliverables; empowered PMs; and faster launch of projects through the use of knowledge sharing.
  • Communication becomes easier as all use common terminology, methodology and KPIs; customers get greater visibility and satisfaction with plans, schedules, actual performance against objectives and commitments.

and also, it is in the best interest of Project Managers

  • for a richer and broader professional experience in terms of technical aspects, finance, soft skills...; in a rich mix of environments and roles; and with a diversity in types and importance of projects.
  • with jobs that carry tremendous value add for the company and its customers and are recognized as such. The PM is the ultimate responsible person for the project
    an evolution with experience within the PM profession with the opportunity to: manage larger projects and strategic programmes; evolve towards other professions (consultants, external customer projects, customer account management...); move to line management positions...
  • a network of peers to learn from facilitated by collaborative tools.

 

Do you have any experience with implementing such a framework in your company?  

Please drop me a note or leave a comment.

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business Services. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/