STAFFING YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TEAM (Part 7) – Acquiring the Project Manager

Industry, Domain and/or Technical Experience

This McLaughlin and McLaughlin’s Project Professional post is the seventh in a series of discussions regarding current challenges with the staffing aspects of your project management team.   This post (like Parts 4, 5 and 6) addresses acquiring the human resources (people) or staffing.  In this case, we focus on the project manager.  The Subject Series can be viewed here.

This, the third post on acquiring the project manager, will address the relevance and/or importance of such considerations as industry, domain and/or technical experience in a professional project manager.

So, what are the skill-sets that are needed in the year 2012 (and beyond) environment?  Let us drill down into or unpack the subject a little.

Sources that are used in this post are:

In post Part 5 ,  M&M summarized comments from a LinkedIn discussion regarding the assets or qualities that make a GREAT project manager.  The respondents were Project Management Professionals [PMP’s] as per the PMI certification.  Common or recurring attributes were:

  • “Inspires the team”
  • “Focus on conflicting viewpoints”
  • “Helping the team”
  • “Forward plan, collaborate and communicate effectively”
  • “Good risk manager”
  • “Communication and integration”
  • “Focus on all participants”
  • “Business value of the project’s goal”
  • “Positive attitude, truthful approach”
  • “Well educated in all project management disciplines”
  • “Anticipate risks, people skills”
  • “Visualize the intended product”
  • “Communicate the vision”
  • “Goal-oriented progress”
  • “Set goal, lead team”
  • “Communications and leadership”
  • “Good communicator, patience, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity”
  • “Leadership in meeting project objectives”
  • “Communicator, Communicator and Communicator plus leader, planner, communicator in chief”
  • “Growth of the team, learn from their mistakes, quality in the project”
  • “Communicates and facilitates”
  • “Social skills and effective communication”
  • “Manage stakeholders’ expectations, Communicate, Co-ordinate and Motivate”

The list is rough; but quite enlightening.  It is noteworthy that such words as “industry experience,” “domain experience” and “technical experience/expertise” do not appear.  Please remember that these comments come from PMP’s.

So, what are the skill-sets that are needed in the year 2012 (and beyond) environment?  This was previously posted and repeated for context and emphasis.

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:

  • Team Building Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Technical Skills – Rarely the technical expert, the project/program manager needs technical, administrative and marketing understanding.”
  • Planning Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Entrepreneurial Skills
  • Administrative Skills
  • Management Support  Building Skills
  • Resource Allocation Skills

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.

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 negatives):

  • “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.”

In order to unpack or expand this consideration, M&M recently posted the following discussion on several LinkedIn Groups:

In Project or Program Management, how important is industry, technical or domain experience?

“When project management candidates or persons are being considered, selected, and engaged or hired, technical or domain experience is frequently an expressed consideration.  Often, criteria for the individual includes industry, project-specific scope, technical or other experience with the content of the project are expressed requirements.  There are differing views on this subject.  What are your views?”

“PMI’s PMBOK discusses many activities and skills that are (in part or entirely) focused on the Project or Program Manager.  All of these process requirements are managerial in nature, virtually none are technical or domain related.”

“In his authoritative book PROJECT MANAGEMENT, A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, Dr. Kerzner lists ten proficiencies for effective project management.  Only one of the ten is Technical Expertise (assume same as domain expertise).  Industry or similar project experience does not make the list.

Having managed many projects in many industries and with varying underlying technology, it is fair to say that opinions vary widely on this topic.”

“What is your perspective, opinion, experience or view?”

The comments may offer additional insight into this subject.  To the extent that comments are enlightening, they will be shared.  Please visit the discussions and contribute your comment.

Good luck and let us be enlightened and pragmatic in the selection and 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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