Over the last three weeks we have been publishing articles from an upcoming eBook, that should be published within weeks. The articles we published so far were about the field of project management practice as a growing domain. We also presented six challenges that, in our professional opinion, are impacting the practice of project management negatively. With this post, we start a new 3-article series on how to convert some of the challenges into opportunities.
In our view, we – the project management community collectively – must capitalize on these opportunities for the sustainable growth of project management knowledge and practices. Although we do not know all the answers for all of the challenges that we posted, we attempt to answer some of them in these next three posts. We also reflect our general approach in the series of eBooks that we are publishing on our methodology.
Opportunity 1: Acceptance and opportunity for project management growth
As we discussed in past articles, project management, as a field of study and practice, has emerged strongly over the years. Some practitioners consider project management as a profession, others say it is an emerging profession, yet a few are of the opinion that project management will never be a profession; although a project manager, as a role, can be a professional.
Project management is touching many organizations around the globe of all types and sizes. It is touching professionals, managers, and executives. There is even interest at the national level within the political hierarchy in various countries. It is also quite common to hear professionals from all industries and at all levels saying, “I am working on a project.”
Although we observe such a wide acceptance, the acceptance is still not deep rooted and in some cases could be considered merely trendy. Another complication is the lack of understanding of project management and what are project management limitations or special conditions. Yet, one more challenge is the views by some that a project manager can manage any project in any industry regardless of the domain, size, or complexity of the project. Executives also heavily depend on ‘accidental project managers’ is another factor that is impacting project management. Now this article is not about challenges – but we need to understand these challenges in order to consider the opportunity.
In our professional opinion, there is a creative tension between acceptance and lack of understanding on one side … and on the other side the opportunity for project management practitioners and researchers to close this gap and reduce the tension. If we do not understand this tension and work to close the gap to the better, the chance is that instead of achieving a higher – desired outcome, we will fall back into the current reality and its consequences.
Categories of professionals
Before going to the opportunity, we ask for your patience and consider a few more points.
We do not like categorizing people but in this contest categorizing professionals (and people) would be relevant and needed. Let us divide people into four categories:
- There are people in highly technical or functional roles that do not have a need for project management skills.
- There are other people who can benefit from certain project management skills for life and business (projects) but do not need to be project managers.
- The third category is people who need to manage “business” projects such as a basic training project, marketing project, internal IT project, maybe a publishing project … these are projects that would be considered normal ‘day-to-day’ projects, which may last few days or weeks and require limited resources. In a typical organization, these projects are led by ‘accidental project managers’.
- The fourth category is professionals who would need to manage larger and more complex projects than we presented in the previous category and for these professionals, organizations should or must shift from using accidental project managers into professional (career) project managers.
Time for the opportunity
One of the challenges we face in project management today is an overemphasis on certification, whether you agree or disagree please read on. Let us consider the four categories we raised here,
- Can we agree that the first category is outside project management interest? In the context of this article, we are excluding this category.
- Can we agree that for the fourth category, the need is for professional project managers? If we agree on this – then these professionals will require extensive professional development where certifications will add value.
- Can we also agree that the other two categories are of interest to us – obviously at different levels? Let us expand on this point.
This is our opportunity, finally!
Can we accept that people in category 2 – only – need project management skills as a life / business skills, like soft / interpersonal skills – and – do not need intensive training in project management – and – for sure no need for certification?
Can we accept that people in category 3 might need general project management skills, including how to manage their day-to-day projects?
With the above, unless these professionals in categories 2 & 3 need to manage projects on a regular basis or consider shifting into career project manager role, do they need certification?
- The opportunity is to accept that project management is not only about certifications.
- The opportunity is to consider different level of training, learning, and professional development programs for professionals from different categories.
- The opportunity is to accept that if project management is to sustain and grow we need to focus on outcome – and fit-for-purpose learning opportunities, and not overemphasize certifications.
Some might Say – Mounir – what you say is common sense. Is it? We have not done a detailed study of training providers – but as a PMI REP for long time (10 years) a large percent (if not majority or most) training providers only offer certification courses. Check for yourself in your area. By pushing certification – we are back to a challenge.
In our professional opinion, for project management to thrive and sustain, we need executive management support and a higher level of organizational acceptance based on understanding and value proposition, not fashionable trends. If we can help executives understand the significant value of project management and different people needs different skills sets, and help them improve the project management organizational process (another topic) then we can expect significant growth in professionals and executives accepting project management and realize the benefits of performance enhancements in delivering the organization’s projects.
Let us start a new tradition with a focus on excellence – rather than the status quo of high failure rate of projects!
Would you agree with what we present here? If not, why not and where do you see we missed the point?
 This is a lengthy discussion and a hotly debated topic – which is also outside the scope of this article.