Closing up the PM “professional” survey

I’m trying to tie up some loose ends, especially follow-ups promised in earlier blog posts (here).  In particular, here are the top two answers from the “Is Project Management a Profession Yet?” survey (survey here):

  • 38 percent: Yes, but second-tier — like engineering or non-university teaching (33 of 86 answers)
  • 26 percent: No, not yet — could reach at least second-tier profession (22 of 86 answers)

I’m with the “No, not yet” crowd.  I can see project management achieving some of professional attributes, but I see few in place now.   For example, certifications are all well and good — and the PMP is becoming more universal — but they are a long way from licensure.  Take a look at the some of the requirements, benefits, and documentation for the Professional Engineer license (here).

PM Quote of the Day — Emily Post

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use

I liked this quote because it provides an example of something I’ve found hard to explain: the difference between a skill and a competency.  In this case, the skill is knowing which fork is which.  Competence refers to the cluster of abilities, knowledge, skills, temperament, etc. required for a role. 

Competence in manners would involve not only knowing table settings, but other, fuzzier abilities — like understanding how to best to convey such knowledge.  For example, with someone who appears unsure when faced with an array of utensils, one could show empathy with their plight, something like: “I know how you feel.  Someone showed me this trick about starting with the utensils on the outside….”

Hey... wheres the fish fork?

Hey... who took my fish fork?

The “that’s not my role” delusion

I very much liked this post by J Schwan (here) about the dangers of over-specialization.  Some of the comments miss the point — J acknowledges the value of domain knowledge — which is that a role-bound workforce conspires against:

  1. Understanding how to optimize the whole vs one’s part.
  2. Remembering why one is doing a project in the first place.
  3. Accountability for results.

As J notes, it is easy to hide behind a “work to role” facade.  But that’s all it is, a facade and a thin, deluded one at that.  To be blunt, strictly bounded roles end up becoming jobs that get outsourced or automated.  I can’t imagine wanting to working in such an environment anyway.  

J paints a picture of a healthier technology workplace:

Sure we all have roles we prefer to play. I love technology architecture work, and if I’m working on a project that’s going to require more than a handful of people, I’ll bring in one of our PM gurus, because frankly, I’m not that great of a project manager. But I do know the difference between a Gant Chart and a Sprint Queue, and when it makes more sense to use one versus the other to manage a project. And I like the fact that our PMs understand the difference between a web server and an application server, and that our BA gurus have no qualms about doing QA work or rolling up there sleeves to fix some simple bugs if that’s what the project needs. 

Hat tips to Eric Brown (here) and Bas (here).

PM Profession Survey Answers — Fully Yes & No/Never

I’m starting the long-promised review of the answers to my survey: Is Project Management a Profession Yet?  I’ll ignore the “undecided” answers (8 percent) and start with the two extremes.

First the “nays”: five percent answered No — and it never will.  I’m not sure how one can be so confident that PM will never have any sort of professional status.  Project management already exhibits early markers of an emerging profession — certifications required for some jobs, graduate programs at respectable universities, professional associations — so “no and never” is a hard position to sustain.

That said, the “yeas” have a far tougher chore, IMO.  Yet 16 percent answered Yes, fully — like law, medicine, or academia.  Wow… now those are some rose-colored glasses.  If you think PM is a full-fledged profession, I suggest that you ask yourself these questions:

  • Does PM have a legal or regulatory framework underpinning it? 
  • Has anyone been arrested for practicing PM without a license?
  • Do you have to go to a accredited “PM School” to even be allowed to take a PM “Bar” Exam? 
  • Is there a “theory of projects” akin to the theoretical constructs that underpin even “soft” disciplines like history and economics?

More on the other answers in the next days.

Value of PM Academic Programs?

Last week I attended the PMI Global Corporate Council‘s semi-annual executive forum.  This meeting included a one-day symposium with education leaders on the challenges and trends facing academic programs in project management.

I was a bit of a skeptic going in.  I had known of PM programs in a few schools — my brother had attended courses with Frank Anbari at George Washington University — but I wondered how mainstream or widespread they had become.   From what I saw last week, I must admit that there is more traction than I had expected. 

In particular, the best programs are no longer strictly focusing on tools and techniques and are moving towards practical applications, teaching leadership skills, and providing hands-on opportunities via a variety of means, including internships, mentor programs, simulations, etc. Among the programs that impressed based on presentations and conversations:

PM Quote of the Day — Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

Let them hate us so long as they fear us

Project managers often have to exercise influence without authority.  We can’t always get what you want from people over whom you have no authority.  We end up doing a lot of horse trading — offering what you have that the other person desires in exchange for what you need from them to be successful.  Such bargaining can be time-consuming and frustrating, but we accept it as part of the project world.

However, when project managers get formal authority, some become tempted to exercise it constantly.  Former master negotiators become “take it or leave it” leaders.  They don’t care what others think, so long as they obey.

That’s where the quote comes in.  It sounds powerful and commanding… until you realize who was credited with saying it.  For Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus is better known as Caligula.  Not exactly a role model for leadership (or longevity), eh?

PMBOK 4th Edition — People Skills Appendix

I’m curious about what the updated PMBOK Guide will have to say in the new People Skills Appendix.  What it includes will set the baseline for the topic (BTW, I’m not expecting any earth-shaking inclusions or exclusions).  It is good that the PMBOK Guide to will start to address such an important topic in a greater degree of detail.

In the meantime, a group we’ve worked with before — the Center for Business Practices — has a couple of useful short books that address these topics (FYI, book descriptions theirs):

  • What Makes a Good Project Manager offers a clear and succinct description of what it takes to be a competent project manager. The essays, book excerpts, and other materials in this book focus on key personal skills and interpersonal abilities that lead to project manager success, such as mentoring, decision-making, facilitating, and communication. 
  • Project Management Roles & Responsibilities provides comprehensive descriptions of the responsibilities, skills, and desired backgrounds for project personnel to guide you in crafting job descriptions that are appropriate for your organization, or to rethink the ways in which you have assigned responsibilities to existing positions.
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