Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing – Warren Bennis
In the paper, Project Manager Assignment: A Strategic Perspective, author Peerasit Patanakul from Pennsylvania University talks about finding a good fit between the projects and Project managers.
He goes on to add that the competencies of project managers need to be assessed under the four board categories of Administrative process competencies, Technical competencies, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal competencies, and Business competencies.
A person who has played a Project Co-ordinator role will lack the skills to handle big complex projects and will need to build up the required competencies.
I remember a couple of years back, a colleague of mine who handled several critical projects was called to help a PM get his project back on track.
My colleague was frustrated and annoyed to identify that several key aspects of the Project were not on track. There were missed engagements, design gaps, no team accountability and many more. Although the PM sent status reports he had missed to highlight the key critical issues in the Project which later became a huge volcano ready to explode.
My colleague in addition to managing her projects struggled to make a decision whether to mentor the PM or put his project back on track. Ultimately, she chose the latter as she had the priority to set things right rather than mentoring the PM.
It is interesting to note that the PM was part of a Key program but his role was more of a project co-ordinator than a Project Manager. Secondly, he was very good at coordinating the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities at the organization level.
He had made his visibility with the top management with the CSR initiatives he drove rather than the projects. He was promoted and given to manage a critical project. He neither had the skills nor the knowledge to handle the project.
The management mistook his skills of running the CSR initiatives and the role he played in the key project that he was capable to handle big complex projects.
The PM pushed his team and Product owner to handle tasks which did not fall in their scope of work and this resulted in team frustration.
The other key aspect is neither did the PM open up or admit that he lacked the required skills and needed a mentor or training. The project became red and project stakeholders sent escalations. The management was put in an awkward situation and my colleague was called to douse the flame.
Everyone missed seeing the big picture.
The Senior management should have put in substantial thought process backed with data before assigning a Project manager to a critical project. Does the PM have the knowledge of the tool and techniques to handle the project, Has the PM delivered critical projects successfully and consistently, What business benefits did the projects deliver, how were the escalations and risks and issues managed, Stakeholder appreciations and recognitions are some of the several factors to be looked into.
In the above scenario, the PM skills were misunderstood by management and not clearly identified. Based on what skills the PM is lacking- technical, business knowledge, interpersonal or communication skills a mentor needs to be identified. A mentor should have the required competency and experience to guide and support a PM on technical skills, communication skills, domain or business knowledge, the right attitude to manage the key project stakeholders, tools and techniques, identifying risks and issues and come up with mitigation strategies etc.
In addition to mentoring, the PM should be open to discussion on the skills he lacks so required help can be provided. It is better to be open and transparent rather than taking up something and not delivering it. Accepting that you lack skills is one part and putting a plan as to how much time you would need to learn and implement those skills is another part. As the statistics show that you learn 70% from your job, 20% from feedback and only 10% from training. The PM can only improve his competency once the knowledge is put in practice.
I am an IT Program Manager with 16+ years of experience holding PMP, CSM, DevOps, SaFeAgile, COBIT, ITIL and ISTQB certifications.
I have been published on Projectmanagement.com, Project-management.com, Projectmanage.com, Projectimes.com, Proprofs.com, PMI Bangalore chapter and several of the India print media. I also interview people from different domains on the projects they handle on my website : https://everyonedoesprojects.com/
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