I am writing this on the New Year’s Eve, getting ready to say farewell to 2008 and welcome 2009. This is the time when we raise our glasses and wish each other the best of things and revisit our own aspirations for the months ahead. It’s the time of reflection and hope, decisions and, often, concessions.
For whatever aspiration you have for 2009, I wish you that you have enough resources, determination and support to carry it through. I wish you good health, much happiness and every success you deserve.
Since the economic news from around the world is far from fantastic, I hope all organizations worldwide world will remember why they exist, will stick to their core values and always act responsibly towards clients, shareholders and employees. Since this is a project management blog, I also wish them good project management. It is critical today more than ever, because a tough economy has an unmistakable trait of being able to separate success from failure and amplify the consequences of both by a factor of thousands.
I must explain what I mean by good project management. I hold the discipline of project management to be a core competency of every senior professional, whether manager or executive. I have been and will remain critical of the current state of the project management designation which is so incredibly easy to obtain that the professional value of a good project manager has become diluted by meek, under-qualified individuals who could barely manage my cat’s breakfast, let alone a project. I have met with whole organizations besieged by hordes of such people, for they were very cheap to acquire. They have turned into expensive glorified clerks, making sure that timesheets are submitted on time and status reports furnished before the set hour, notwithstanding the poor content within them.
There is little place for such project management anywhere when the times are tough, and these people will probably among the first to go. It is high time for good project management, where project managers are:
- Knowledgeable. Understanding the problem domain and having the general business knowledge is critical. I have now lost count of my conversations with individuals who could not tell me the business impact of their project, could not read a basic P&L statement and had no people management skills.
- Resolute. Have you seen projects that are paralyzed because every minute operational decision is brought in front of the steering committee? It’s a sorry sight! I recently spoke to a senior PM with years of experiences, who confided to me that his project sponsor had made, as he believed, a suboptimal project decision. I asked him if he shared his concerns with the sponsor. No, as it turned out, on the account of the sponsor being “a very senior guy.” Within her scope of control, a project manager must be the ultimate decision maker, and granted, some of the calls will be tough. For all other project decisions, the ability to simply express one’s opinion as a person closest to the project is incredibly important.
- Committed to learning. My observations suggest that there is a wide gap between the knowledge that project managers require, and that they are getting. Too often, an individual submits deludes herself or himself that she or he knows everything there is to know about the subject, while in fact knowing very little. By way of an example, one of the critical skills for a project manager is decision making, the ability to assemble a business case, weighing in financial, strategic and other variables. Really successful project managers recognize that there can never be the “end of learning” in this subject. I see them in my courses on Business Cases and Cost-Benefit Analysis, the nearest taking place on February 2, 2009. They ask provocative questions, yes, and I am happy to know that there are project managers like them out there.
In every profession, there are those who are good at it and those who are not. Difficult times are very effective in separating diamonds from the sand, and I have no doubt they will. In the difficult time we’re going through now. The good news is that the future of every project manager is largely in his or her own hands.
Here’s to good project management. Happy New Year!
Ilya Bogorad is the Principal of Bizvortex Consulting Group Inc, a management consulting company located in Toronto, Canada. Ilya can be reached at [email protected] or (905) 278 4753.