As it is January, I thought it would be a good time to share with you my project management New Year resolution. But before I share it with you, I want to share an observation: if I could make up my own personality categorization system for project managers, I might say that there are two main types: builders and maintainers.
Builders are the project managers who love to manage projects that create brand new things: shopping malls, online courses, software applications, new products, etc. They are excited by the unexpected challenges they will face and thrive on the creative energy generated by the team.
I recently attended the Business Analyst World conference in Ottawa, Canada. The audience was comprised of mostly (no surprise here) business analysts but also included project managers, technical leads, and a few project sponsors. What I found intriguing was that about one third of the track sessions were concerned with agile-related topics, and the buzz in the hallways between sessions and at lunch seemed to lean towards agile. I guess this means that agile is now solidly on the radar of the mainstream project community.
In most countries around the world, bribery – the payment of secret funds to someone to get them to bypass standard processes or to alter their standard behaviour – is considered immoral and often illegal. The codes of conduct or codes of ethics from many of our professional organizations explicitly forbid bribery. So, for the vast majority of project managers, bribery is out of the question.
Let me share a story with you, however, that may sway your opinion a bit. One day about 3-4 months ago, I was discussing a foreign project management training assignment with a colleague. He was being asked to teach a 3-day project management course in a far-off country. (For the sake of not offending anyone, let’s leave the country name out of this as it is not necessary to make my point.)
I was teaching a project management course last week and presented a module on stakeholder management. In this module, I presented some techniques for identifying project stakeholders, some criteria for evaluating them to see which ones have an important influence over the project, and strategies for dealing with stakeholders who may have some moderate influence over the project but who are not involved in the day-to-day decisions in the project. In all, I thought it was pretty standard material.
Over the years that I’ve been attending project management events, I’ve heard project managers from various backgrounds comparing their projects in an effort to see whose project was harder to manage. Typically, these PMs are men – perhaps it is part of the genetic makeup of men that many feel the need to compete with each other to establish some type of social hierarchy.
What I’ve noticed, is that there are two typical results of these comparisons: either both projects are in similar industries and are therefore somewhat comparable, establishing one as clearly larger or more complex than the other; or the two projects are of a completely different nature, with little that can be directly compared. I most commonly see this latter occurrence when one is an engineering or construction project, while the other is an IT project.
A few days ago, I attended a seminar on managing cross-cultural projects – these are projects where there are people from diverse backgrounds on the project team, perhaps spread out in countries across the world. The course was excellent, focusing on the need for managers to understand better the cultural differences that exist between people and perhaps to leverage these differences to improve project performance. Many illustrative examples were given that showed clashes between cultural norms and how they could impact communications.
I attended another such seminar many years ago, but have not seen too many offered at conferences since then. This was once a rather specialized topic, of concern to those senior project managers lucky enough to manage large, international projects. Over the past few years, however, we’ve seen a shift in our team demographics that makes the need for cultural training all the more valuable to today’s project managers. Two main factors are contributing to this shift:
I sit down to write this article knowing that my initial proposition is going to cause some debate – even anger – among readers. Yet, I believe that the point still needs to be discussed, so I am going to take a risk and put these thoughts into writing.
The proposition that I would like to make is that the roles of project manager and business analyst are not very different from each other. In fact, I’ll even go further than that: I believe that these roles eventually merge together the higher one rises in either profession.
Now, before you start writing a strongly-worded rebuttal, please take the time to consider these facts:
I spend a portion of my time recovering troubled projects or helping project managers avoid traveling down the road towards a troubled project. In doing this, I keep making the same observation over and over again: most project managers are failing.
For Your Eyes Only
Have you ever typed an e-mail with information for the eyes of the recipient only, then find out that they have forwarded it on to someone else without editing the e-mail first! This could be embarrassing. If you are going to forward an e-mail with a thread, read the complete thread and edit if necessary. A lot of trouble can be caused if the wrong information or privileged information is sent to the wrong person.
People say things in e-mails that they regret later when the words fall into the wrong inbox, like their bosses. Be very careful what you say about people or clients, etc. You have to be very careful not to put something in an e-mail that could have negative consequences for you. You can not depend on the recipient not to forward your e-mail unedited.
I have been asked to participate in a panel discussion at a conference on certification. The session is called “There is NO Value in Certification!” At first, I thought this statement was ridiculous, and couldn’t imagine too many people wanting to support this premise; however, as I have talked to people, I realize that this position is not too uncommon.
The main criticism that people have of PM certification programs is that the well-known ones (at least in North America) all seem to be knowledge-based assessments. Yes, many of them (like the PMP) have experiential components, but the core of the assessment is testing whether someone has memorized material from a standard syllabus.
What this means is that the assessing body has verified that these PMs have acquired knowledge of a common set of project management terms, processes, and techniques. What it doesn’t verify is whether a specific project manager is any good or not at the practice of project management.