STAFFING YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TEAM (Part 6) – Acquiring the Project Manager

Selection Considerations

This McLaughlin and McLaughlin Project Professionals post is the sixth in a series of discussions regarding current challenges with the staffing aspects of your project management team.   This post (like Parts 4 and 5) addresses acquiring the human resources (people) or staffing.  In this case, we focus on acquisition of the project manager.  This acquisition of project manager resource will be the subject of several posts over the next several weeks.  The Subject Series can be viewed here.

This, the second post on acquiring the project manager, will address the selection criteria that are important in a professional project manager.  Before looking at sources for a project manager candidate, one needs to settle on the key characteristics (personal and other) that are needed in the specific project and the project execution strategy for your project.

Sources that are used in this post are:

In order to select a suitable project manager, on must understand the requirements of the project challenge as well as the skill-sets that are needed in the year 2012 (and beyond) environment.

Kerzner addresses the subject in (among other places) Chapter 4 (pages 148 through 153) under 4.3 SKILL REQUIREMENTS FOR PROJECT AND PROGRAM MANAGERS. Several of his key attributes are (with some paraphrasing or shortening):

  • Team Building Skills – One of the prime responsibilities, she/he must provide an atmosphere conducive to team-work.”
  • Leadership Skills – A prerequisite for project success, it involves dealing effectively with managers and supporting personnel across functional lines.”
  • Conflict Resolution Skills – Fundamental to complex task management, the project/program manager must resolve conflicts and improve overall program performance. ”
  • Technical Skills – Rarely the technical expert, the project/program manager needs technical, administrative and marketing understanding.”
  • Planning Skills – They are absolutely essential for successful management of large complex programs.”
  • Organizational Skills – The project/program manager must be a social architect.”
  • Entrepreneurial Skills – The project/program manager needs a general manager perspective.”
  • Administrative Skills – The project/program manager must be experienced in planning, staffing, budgeting, scheduling, and other control techniques.”
  • Management Support  Building Skills – The key variables that influence relationships with senior management are 1. Ongoing creditability, 2. Program visibility, 3. Program/Project priority, and 4. Personal accessibility.”
  • Resource Allocation Skills – Once a project is sanctioned, it is imperative to manage the acquisition of key (of not all) resources.  Then these resources must be allocated and managed.  Shortages must be overcome.”

Kerzner presents a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion titled 4.6 NEXT GENERATION PROJECT MANAGER (pages 158 and 159).  The general thesis is that the project manager’s skill-sets and requirements have changed from the 1980’s to 2010 timeframe.  The most prominent change is a diminished requirement for “Technical Skills” and an intensifying of need for “Business Conceptual Skills.”  In essence, the project manager has transitioned from a technical manager to a business manager.  Dr. Kerzner’s key points for primary skills are:

  • “Knowledge of the business”
  • “Risk management”
  • “Integration skills”

Dr. Kerzner elaborates on this list as follows:

The critical skill is risk management.  However, to perform risk management effectively, a sound knowledge of the business is required. [snip]  As projects become larger, the complexities of integration management become more pronounced. [snip]  The project managers efforts are now heavily oriented toward integration of the functional plans into a total project plan.

Said differently (and perhaps a different view), the project manager must ensure that the project objectives and Project Plan (project execution plan) is aligned with the business objectives.  Further, the project manager must interact and communicate with all key stakeholders to ensure that dynamics in either the business objectives or the project execution remain synchronized.  On large and complex projects with long duration time schedules (three years or greater), this is a major risk that must be managed.  The issue is – does the project manager have the skill-set to achieve this synchronization on an ongoing basis?

In the next post, we will address additional issues in selecting and acquiring the project manager.  A strong and well qualified project manager will heavily influence the success of the project.

In the past eight years, M&M has program managed or project managed five large and complex projects.  The capital investment value of all of these projects exceeded (individually) $100 million dollars (USD) and several exceeded $300 million dollars (USD).  Further, these projects included engineering, professional consulting, procurement, construction and other project phases.

Another view is offered by Dr. Kerzner in the section “4.5 SELECTING THE WRONG PROJECT MANAGER” (pages 154-157).  His key points (remember they are negative):

  • “Maturity – Grey hair is not a criteria, rather experience in several project environments is suggested”
  • “Hard-Nosed Tactics – Militant or hard-nosed tactics in relationships with team members can be demoralizing.”
  • “Availability – Just because someone is in the que or in line or waiting does not make him or her right for the job.”
  • “Technical Expertise – Executives quite often promote line managers when technical specialists may not be able to divorce themselves from the technical aspects of the project.”

These are important and must be considered.

Good luck and let us be realistic and professional in the acquisition of the project manager for your project management team.  You must acquire an individual with the requisite quantity and skill-sets needed to implement your intended project execution strategy.  Otherwise, the execution strategy must be changed.  This is part of the interactive planning process.  M&M wishes you happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors.

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