Project management is, among other things, a quest for efficiency. That quest should extend to the amount of project management knowledge, skill, and ability for the job and task at hand.
Projects come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of complexity. That’s part of why project management certification and training is available in different levels. While knowledge is a great thing, seeking out the highest level isn’t always the ideal direction to pursue. PM skills should be a means to an ends, not the ends themselves. Not every project needs to have a leader with PMP or Master Black Belt credentials. Acquiring skills that a person doesn’t have the opportunity to use and practice them is most likely going to result in those skills to become rusty and forgotten, to the point of being useless. Selecting the right tools for the job starts with knowing and understanding what level of expertise is needed for the type of project work one plans to do.
The term “intelligence” is often thrown around and added to various topics in order to create a deeper understanding of underlying components; emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence are two examples. The same convention fits here when discussing the components of skills development necessary for identifying the right levels for effective project management. Welcome to the concept of Project Intelligence.
Project Intelligence (PQ) in this context is a framework for identifying and acquiring the right abilities for project management as part of an overall, complimentary skill set in your professional tool box. It can be thought of as a four-step process for acquiring the amount of project management skill for a particular position. It starts with examining the situation and concludes with putting a right-sized repertoire of abilities into action.
Developing PQ involves the examination and consideration of the following components:
PQ drive involves asking and answering the question of why someone wants or needs to develop project management skills. Presumably, it’s because they plan to work on projects. But what is the motivation, or ‘drive’ to it? Is this person going to occasionally work on projects as a member of a cross-functional team? Will they need to act as project managers regularly as a part of their job? It can also be the case that someone needs to be able to show project management knowledge in order to be eligible for their next promotion. What drives a person to acquire PM skills can be as diverse as the various types of projects we can think of. That drive will also directly influence the types of skills necessary to achieve their project management goals.
A little, or a lot? How much project management knowledge is the right amount to satisfy the needs corresponding to the motivation? This is the question of depth. Determining the depth of knowledge required for project management can be compared to selecting the right set of tools for the job.
In this step, an individuals need to determine the type of knowledge that they need and how much of it is necessary. This way, they can focus their efforts on learning what they need to know. For example, the person occasionally working as a team member of cross-functional project teams will need to know the basics of the methodology they will be working in. Key concepts like deliverables, success criteria, sprints, and documentation procedures are what will help this individual the most. The regular project manager will need more extensive knowledge of the methodology, as well as details for team coordination and procedure implementation. The person interested in acquiring PM skills for their next promotion might want to consider CAPM or Yellow-Belt certification to document and demonstrate their knowledge.
PQ development means learning. Once a person knows what project management skills they need, the next step is to go out and get them. With the necessary skill set identified, an individual can find the training to acquire those skills. This is the development step in the process, where an individual goes out and develops the project management competencies they identify for the depth of skill they require.
Once of the great things about the field of project management is the vast availability of resources for education and training. Of course higher qualifications and official certifications have specific and strict requirements, but for most types of education and training, there are options available for various needs, budgets, and schedules. Where there’s a will, there are usually a number of different ways.
With the new project management skills learned and developed, it’s time to put them into practice. Theoretical knowledge that can’t be used is nothing more than useless information. In the deployment stage, individuals can take their newly acquired knowledge back to their professional settings and put them to use. This means managing project, working on project teams, overseeing project portfolios, or any other activities where the new project management skills will be useful and beneficial.
Also important in the deployment stage is to look out for repetitive opportunities. These are chances for people to use their project management skills again, and again, and again – pausing in between each time to look for chances to improve. Every new endeavour is an opportunity to learn and progress, but only if we take the time to use it.
Developing the right level of project intelligence is a dynamic process. As work environments are constantly changing with new challenges and situations, it’s important to regularly revisit and reassess the types of skills you need. By focusing on the immediate and near-future requirements, a person has the chance to learn not only the skills they need for the moment, but the skills they will actually have the opportunity to use, practice, and master. So when the time comes to move further up the ladder once again, they will have a strong foundation to start from before taking the next step.