Project Management Institute

Switching gears

VIEWPOINTS CROSSING BORDERS

BY ALFONSO BUCERO, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

The transition to project manager takes time, but the journey starts with the desire to fulfill the role. Training and experience come later.

Just as everywhere, professionals throughout Europe have been promoted to the job of project manager—without ever being asked if they even want the position. Unfortunately, many worldwide companies do not spend time informing their people about the importance of the project manager's job, the content, the potential issues, challenges or difficulties.

Employing the best project managers is not necessarily employers' first priority. Some executives assume the next logical step in a technical professional's career is project manager. However, they don't consider the opinion or feedback of the candidates who will have to handle those responsibilities. Further, they do not give those candidates enough information about the job to judge if they will like it.

Creating project management forums is an effective, efficient way for all participants to progress together.

Instead, organizations find arguments to justify those promotions. One of the most common I hear is, “It is a business need. We have more and more projects and we need more project managers to manage them.” Nobody in those organizations thinks about the feelings of the professionals, who probably do not have enough experience, knowledge and energy. Nobody in those organizations is conscious about the business impact— efficiency, effectiveness and business results—of putting the wrong person in the wrong position.

Throughout my career working for multinational companies in Europe, I often saw good people become totally frustrated after being promoted. Some technical experts prefer to continue working in those positions because they feel comfortable with the responsibilities and do not like dealing with people. They do not communicate well, they do not like conflicts and, basically, they are uncertain about their company's expectations.

This promotion system decreases a company's technical excellence (because the experts no longer do what they're best at). Projects under-perform because these new professionals lack the leadership skills to get the jobs done.

An appropriate project manager-selection process starts with supplying information to individual candidates about the profession. I have achieved good results delivering a one-day project management workshop. Once you have buy-in, you'll have professionals who are passionate about leading projects.

Training is the next step. Senior project managers must mentor and coach all junior project managers. Creating project management forums is an effective, efficient way for all participants to progress together. These forums allow senior and junior project managers to share experiences and to learn from each other.

Organizations have a great opportunity to seed the field of project management by defining a clear career path for project managers and offering training sessions to individual candidates. It is very difficult to convince people to take on and do a good job as project manager if they do not see that the organization recognizes the profession internally. Get the right people in the position and reap the benefits. PM

Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia. He is the author of Project Management—A New Vision, contributor to Creating the Project Office and co-author of Project Sponsorship.

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PM NETWORK | JANUARY 2006 | WWW.PMI.ORG

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