Sources: Thomas and Mengel, Patanakul and Milosevic, Balestrero
Thomas and Mengel make a link between complexity in project management and competency. They assert that as organizations become more complex, it is necessary to have an understanding as to what is meant by complexity. They point out the numerous interrelationships to consider, such as the environments (both internal and external), the cultural considerations, the competition, and the customers. All of these make it necessary for practitioners to make decisions based on many variables that are not known.
Their research emphasizes that project managers may not be able to handle complex projects and discusses the need for "master project managers". Such persons would have competencies in areas including shared leadership, social competence and emotional intelligence, communications, organizational political skills, and vision, values, and beliefs. That is because each program is complex from the moment it is initiated, all the way through to its closing.
Their research also emphasizes the need for personal competencies that is even more applicable to the program setting given that uncertainty and change are prevalent. As a result, more emphasis is needed on these interpersonal skills to be able to respond to the environmental complexity and change in many projects. That is, rather than a strict focus on the tools and techniques in the PMBOK® Guide (or other project management guides and standards).
Patanakul and Milosevic discuss several competencies needed to lead a group of multiple projects. This includes but is not limited to having an innovative thinking style, minimizing the time required to switch to another project, simultaneously leading multiple teams, and knowing the most appropriate conflict management techniques. In their study, they focus on management of a number of multiple projects in which projects are grouped for greater management efficiency, but yet lead to stronger interdependencies as the same person manages them. They define program management as "the centralized, coordinated management of a group of goal-related projects to achieve the program's strategic objectives and benefits".
Patanakul and Milosevic used a case study approach with six different organizations. The competencies they describe include managing, communicating, problem solving, multitasking and maintaining focus, identifying and managing risks, and adapting one's style to accommodate the variety of people who are working on different teams. They also note the importance of the manager's tenure with the organization.
Moreover, they point to the manager's ability to have a solid foundation in project management as well as business competencies such as understanding clients, being able to integrate multiple activities and departments, and having a sense of the overall business. They describe internal traits, such as being organized, disciplined, proactive, mature, and self-controlled, all of which contribute to being able to interface with a diverse group of stakeholders in a short period of time. As such, they conclude that both hard and soft competencies are required.
Gregory Balestrero, president and chief executive officer of the Project Management Institute, states:
"In 2008, PMI commissioned a study by the Economist Information Unit that interviewed almost 600 senior executives of national, multinational and global companies. Most of them said they did not think their organization's talent management was good enough."
In this study, he explained the following:
- 95% said, "Skilled talent is needed for success"
- 75% said, "My organization lacks execution skills critical to success"
- 55% said, "Our senior executives leave talent selection to unit managers"
- 43% said, "Our performance evaluation is based on financial indicators only"
(Hence not on ensuring tomorrow's talent)
Balestrero further added:
- Asked what they needed most from new employees, the executives said: the ability to execute projects successfully. (Whom do we know who specializes in that skill?)
- Asked what capability they most wanted their companies to have, they said: the ability to carry out the changes we know we need to make. (Whom do we know who specializes in carrying out change?)
The most important organizational capability was to implement strategic change.
Moving forward, Balestrero noted the increase in program management over project management. He also noted the requirement for increased insight into how programs emerge and develop, as well as the need to be able to manage a common pool of resources across programs in organizations.
10. Thomas, J., & Mengel T., (2008). Preparing project managers to deal with complexity - advanced project management education, International Journal of Project Management, 2008 (26) 3, pp304-315.
11. Patanakul, P., & Milosevic, D. The effectiveness in managing a group of multiple projects: factors of influence and measurement criteria. International Journal of Project Management, 2009, 27(3), pp216-233.
12. Ibid, p218
13. Balestrero, G., Project management continues to add value in times of economic stress. A presentation to the R.E.P. Breakfast, Melbourne, Australia, February 22nd 2010