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Wednesday, 11 April 2007 19:58

Are You A Master?

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In the April 2007 edition of PM Network, there is an article titled "Master Plan: IT executives need to develop an eye for project managers" that I would like to comment on.

The article is mostly based off a study done by Gartner Inc., in Stamford CT, USA. One sad but true statistic stated that 20-30% of IT executives "have a 'dismissive attitude' toward project management". Those are the same execs that suffer "from poor quality, late delivery and unrealistic project costs." I can related to this information from my personal experience, and would venture a guess that when you move into executives in operational areas, the dismissive attitude towards proper project management increases. The majority of IT execs seem to have seen the light and made the realization that there really is value to be delivered by well run projects by individuals who have the right skills to do so in a formal manner. 

If I had to guess at a percentage, I would say that more like 40-50% of operational executives have a dismissive attitude towards formal project management, although the number seems to be decreasing. There are still a majority of director and above level people who seem to not perceive value in formal project management. I see the trend towards realizing project management adds value as positive reinforcement for my decision to enter the discipline.

But I digress. Back to the article in PM Network, I found a few points insightful and worth sharing here. First, the report by Gartner classifies IT project managers in 4 categories:
  1. Novice - Some project experience, lacks formal training
  2. Apprentice - Some project experience, shows initiative towards managing projects, has sought out and attained some formal training, ready to manage a low-risk project.
  3. Journeyman - 2 years of project management experience or more, formal training in scope and risk management, advanced scheduling and best practices.
  4. Master - 5+ years successfully managing projects, usually PMP or other certification attained.
Only 15-20% of project managers are in the Master group. I would place myself either in the high Apprentice or just barely Journeyman category. I've had a good amount of formal training and several years of managing projects, albeit projects managed without knowledge of the discipline of project management.

I feel the categories above are a bit tenuous, as I have met project managers who by the definition above would fit into the Master category, but do not display what I would refer to as Mastery skills in managing projects. The last box in the article goes into five characteristics of masters that I feel are much more accurate:

  1. Diplomacy - ability to manage the business relationships effectively
  2. Strategic Vision - ability to see the big picture and eliminate "silo paradigms"
  3. Policy Responsibility - seek process improvements and question existing policy constraints
  4. Collaboration - cross-functional leadership skills
  5. Risk Management - advanced risk management goes beyond a risk management plan checklist
I would like to add a few to this list:

  1. Effective Planning - see my previous post on Alpha Project Managers and how they spend twice as much time planning as non-alphas.
  2. Superior Communication - Again a reference to Alpha PM's - This goes with diplomacy and collaboration, but everyone knows the successful project management comes mostly from excellent communication.
  3. Decisiveness - the ability to make tough decisions quickly and stick to your guns
  4. Conciseness - the ability to drop pretenses and execute. Many junior project managers I know seem to throw around a lot of jargon in meetings to try and wow those not educated in the discipline. Masters I have worked with drop the unnecessary, speak on the client's level, and get to the point.

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