IN THE COMPETITIVE WORKPLACE, EXPERIENCE CAN ONLY LEAD SO FAR. ADVANCED EDUCATION AND CREDENTIALS WILL OPEN DOORS.
BY DAWNE SHAND
A growing number of professionals are pursuing further education, thanks to an increase in innovative project management educational programs that make homework relevant to on-the-job tasks. A meeting place for colleagues from many different industries, school acts like a project laboratory where values, practices and strategies can be compared and evolve.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Companies must consider the size of their workforce and business needs before deciding how to track their employees’ project management skills, says Margaret Driscoll, an expert in learning systems at IBM who helps companies manage their employees’ learning needs.
Some companies follow only certifications and project experience. Others track project management competencies: How well can a manager forecast? How complex a project can the manager manage? The granularity of tracked information sets companies apart and makes recording project management expertise strategic, Driscoll says.
While some companies needn’t look beyond pen and paper, others who rely on a larger workforce require more sophisticated human resources tracking tools. Most enterprise resource planning vendors and many e-learning providers include skill tracking as a feature in their software. Driscoll cautions that collecting this data is futile unless it is used as part of planning for the company’s future.
Second, how much data already is being captured and is tied in via lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP), a set of Internet protocols for linking information directories that will determine how much work is involved? If some employee data is available and easily accessible via the LDAP directory, the implementation of a tracking system is much less work. If no data, think lots of elbow grease.
To get a sense of the variety of services germane to project management that are being offered, compare the New York Times Education Center, www.nyt.ce.com, to Thomson Corp.’s www.netg.com. The New York Times site provides a basic service in terms of matching educational opportunities to personal needs. Thompson Corp. will customize training for each person based on role, competencies and experiences within an organization.
“School doesn’t replace [experience and effort], but it does equip you to see the bigger picture, to take and implement the fundamentals that you’ve learned,” says Richard Stubing, a software product leader at Intuit, Plano, Texas, USA. “It takes experience and effort to be a good project manager.”
Stubing is one year away from completing a master’s degree in business administration with a project management concentration at the University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA. With his company’s backing, he attends all-day classes Thursday through Saturday and works Monday through Wednesday.
Although the University of Texas at Dallas project management program offers a certification in project management after one year of study, approximately 90 percent of students continue their education toward a master’s in business administration. Other universities have offered opportunities to study project management as a sub-discipline, or, they specialized in acquisitions management. Advanced project education has become so popular that George Washington University (GWU), Washington, D.C., USA, now offers a Ph.D. in project management.
More than 700 institutions, each offering some level of project management education, have registered with PMI, says Mark Gould, director of management development programs of Boston University’s Corporate Education Center. “Just a few years ago, there were 40 to 50 providers.”
Many students flock to project management courses to expand critical skills, and formal education allows them to interact with students and professors who have a wider experience base. “A person might know how to manage projects at one company quite well,” says John Adams, PMP, professor at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, S.C., USA. “It takes some time to realize that the company’s way of managing projects is just one way.” A varied education teaches managers how to evaluate their work beyond a single organization’s standards and requirements.
The same interest in new ideas, people and projects led Peter F. DeDuck to a certification program at Boston University—and a transition point in his career. After working more than 15 years as a functional manager at Lucent Technologies, North Andover, Mass., USA, DeDuck took an early retirement offer as an opportunity to shift gears toward project management.
How long would it take for most people in most firms to work with a lot of consultants, get exposed to a few dozen industries and work on tens of projects? Many years, maybe, at a typical corporation.
PETER F. DEDUCK,
Having already earned a master’s degree in management science, he wasn’t interested in another full-time degree program. “I had practical experience in project management, but I’d never taken any formal education,” he says. “I looked at A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and saw some gaps [in my knowledge]: costing, contracts, risk management.” He enrolled in a 10-week intensive certification course that targeted these areas and increased his overall knowledge in all project management areas.
An experienced manager well into his career, DeDuck learned a great deal from instructors and from the nearly 80 different colleagues he met during the course. “How long would it take for most people in most firms to work with a lot of consultants, get exposed to a few dozen industries and work on tens of projects? Many years, maybe, at a typical corporation.” His studies gave him this experience.
DeDuck really learned how much relevant knowledge he already had. Because the classroom “unlocked some experiences that had been there,” he is exploring options as an independent project management coach, helping companies to mitigate the risks of project failure.
Ph.D. student Paul D. Giammalvo, PMP, also turned to a formal program as a way to transition his 30 years experience in construction project management into a career of academic research and teaching. Giammalvo has spent his career leading big civil engineering projects: airfields in Israel, the oil pipeline in Alaska and, most recently, high rises in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Based in Indonesia, Giammalvo and his colleagues at ASEAN Project Management Center of Excellence (APMX) teach project managers, then collaborate to complete complex construction, information technology and international development efforts. He recently graduated with a master’s degree in the online version of the GWU project management program while living and working in Indonesia.
Because his job and his classes were so closely knit, Giammalvo says, “there was no ’balance’ involved. Each one supported the other.” He also appreciated the program’s emphasis on group learning. “One of the major pluses from the GWU program is the experience of having to function as part of a global, multicultural team across different time zones and with people coming from a variety of technical backgrounds, ages and cultures.”
I learned about…concepts and knowledge such as the project management office, portfolio management and the project maturity model.
HIRONORI HAYASHI, PMP,
Advanced education is available to people with less work experience and less lofty goals. Hironori Hayashi, PMP, began his program after working for four years with the Chiyoda Corp., a large engineering and construction company in Yokohama, Japan. Several colleagues had earned degrees in project management, and they motivated Hayashi to earn his PMP certification in Japan and go on to earn his master’s degree as a full-time student.
There, Hayashi collaborated with student teams as part of each class’ assignments. They met in the evenings or on weekends. “I made good friends and shared experiences with them through those group assignments,” he says. Hayashi echoes a common theme among students: You must be willing to commit time and energy to group projects while in these intensive programs. However, students gain a strategic understanding of how project management fits into the needs of many different industries. “I learned about … concepts and knowledge such as the project management office, portfolio management and the project maturity model,” says Hayashi, who now is a consultant with The Japan Research Institute in Tokyo.
The Right Opportunity
Certifications, master’s degrees or Ph.D.s each meet certain students’ needs differently. According to Frank T. Anbari, PMP, GWU professor, while certification demonstrates the “what” of project knowledge, degree programs show “how” to apply management techniques. “A master’s degree, however, teaches not just how projects work, but why,” he says. “Students considering these degrees should aim to do research, for example, into what are the best applications of these project management principles. Those considering a Ph.D. do so extensively in preparation to teach others.”
Students considering these
FRANK T. ANBARI, PMP,
Students also should remember industry focus when researching programs. Some schools treat project management as a body of knowledge that can be applied to any industry or project. Others spotlight project management studies within a discipline, especially civil engineering, software engineering and information technology management. Often, the schools are closely connected to a local industry and its needs.
“Programs are often tailored to the student and the industry base,” says David Lamm of the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., USA, which provides acquisition management training to meet the continuous learning requirements of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) civil and military personnel. According to Lamm, acquisition management—the art and science of working with the private sector to build public sector goods, such as missile systems or dams—overlaps 95 percent with the project management body of knowledge.
But that five percent differential makes a big difference; Naval Postgraduate School programs focus on aspects of project management, such as the government budgeting process, that other programs would never touch. Although the school rewards degrees, it provides an extensive number of seminar series to meet professional development requirements of DoD personnel.
Less lofty goals? Seminars are a viable means of attaining targeted supplemental education. The vast majority of educational providers offer short-term classes on specific and emerging topics and concepts. Widely available and accessible over the Internet, seminars often serve as a good starting point for exploring educational options. PM
Dawne Shand is a freelance writer and consultant based in Newburyport, Mass., USA. She covers emerging business and technology trends.
PM NETWORK | APRIL 2003 | www.pmi.org