Is project management industry specific? (4/6 PM challenges)

This is the fourth, of six, articles on project management challenges. Article 1 discussed is project management simple, article 2 focused on is project management bureaucratic, and article 3 presented the view on one size fits all in project management environment.

In the last post we discuss the concept that project management cannot be one size fits all. In that post we talked about PMBOK and crossing domains. Today, we build on that challenge but with a shift in focus – the focus today is to advocate the need for industry specific knowledge base.

Can project managers/management cross domains?

Let us use a story to start explaining this point.

Recently we had a prospective client asking for “PMP for construction” for their construction managers. We had to tell him “it does not exist.”

We asked about the objective of the training, he said, “I want them to learn new approaches in order for them to understand project management for construction and significantly improve their project performance. I want them to be able to apply what they learn immediately on their construction projects.”

The answer, “Forget the PMP® at this stage.” We said this to a general manager, who had issued a memorandum to his organization making the PMP® Certification one of the requirements for all future construction managers’ promotions.

Why did we say forget the PMP?

Because PMP® certification’s training is generic and we cannot readily apply it on the job in the construction environment for construction activities; although the learning adds value but it is not enough to meet this company’s objectives.

Further, training with a focus on passing an exam is different from a focus on applying the learning on the job, especially in a specific domain, like construction.

Please note, we are not saying that the PMP® is not valuable or not good — on the contrary, the PMP® certification is valuable. However, all what we are saying, in this case, the PMP certification does not directly align to the organization’s objective. In this case, the objective was applying project management on construction activities in addition to improving the project management organizational system. We further advised, ‘once the employees learn practical and applied project management in your specific domain, then certification would be a good next step but should not be the first step’.

The PMBOK® Guide and many other standards are generic standards, by design and mandate. These standards include the concepts that are common across industries, but do not address the peculiarities of a given industry.

Supplements that are domain specific

The good news is the Project Management Institute (PMI) publishes a number of standards that supplement the PMBOK® Guide. These supplemental standards address industry-specific functions, which the PMBOK® Guide does not cover, in such domains as construction, government, and defense projects. It is our understanding that PMI is interested in developing similar supplemental guides for other industries. However, the bad news is that PMI is not updating these supplemental standards as regularly as their other leading standards and these supplemental standards are still limited to a limited number of domains.

Going through the hurdles on the project life cycleThe project manager can manage any project?

So the PMBOK is not enough and cannot be one size fits all; yet there are many practitioners who thinks that just because someone studied the PMBOK and become PMP then he/she can manage any project. In theory one may consider accepting this argument – but in real life it is another story. There is no easy yes or no answer here since it is a function of the project domain, personal traits, among numerous other factors. Yet – it is amazing how many people would jump and say yes or no with total certainty and authority.

As we regularly say on this blog site and our various articles and posts, project management practices are highly valuables. There are common concepts that cross industries and domains. However, each domain has its unique features and applications. For example, the project life cycle for an industrial project is different from real estate development, pharmaceuticals, marketing, training, technology, software development or other domains. Some projects require only a few resources and short-term, other projects may require hundreds, if not thousands of people and years to complete.

Conclusion

The author view is that we need a focus on industries for project management to thrive in the future. The global business trends, as we see them, are calling for specializations. What exists today in term of generic content would be excellent starting foundation; we just need to build on those foundations!

Appreciate your feedback and comments!

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