Adapted from a paper originally presented to the PMSA Conference, May 2006, Midrand, South Africa.
It is copyright to H. Friedlander© 2006.
Published here January 2007.

Introduction | Case #1 - Diversification | In the Literature
Project Manager Selection | The Author's View | Micromanaging | Case #2 - Due Diligence
Case #3 - Office Move | Case #4 - National Grid | Conclusion | Postscript


Keane's example is interesting, especially her last comment about micromanaging. She may have been successful at her first project but it was possibly a combination of hard work on her part as well as a bit of luck. The usual choice for a project manager for a $30 million network implementation would be someone who has managed a couple of them before.

It is the author's experience that external clients request a resume of the team members, especially the project manager, as part of the approval process for the project to succeed. It may have been a valuable learning experience for Keane but the project may have been at risk, especially in the early stages when she was undergoing a sharp learning curve. As she said, she was "cramming in network knowledge" and this may have been the time she could have spent doing additional pre-project planning.

The danger of "micromanaging" may be answered very simply. If a project manager has good project management skills that include being a good manager, then this would not be an issue. In fact the problem of a manager getting too involved in what the subordinates are doing extends beyond that of project manager. It is a challenge that many a supervisor could face and has to be addressed as part of the job of overseeing staff.

Rizzuto continues with the story of Steve Newcomb. [His] "Knowledge of the grocery industry was as deep and wide as the inventory in any store. But after 15 years, a corporate downsizing forced him to find a new job. He is now project leader at 'IT resources' in Buena Park, California, building systems for automakers.

The change taught Newcomb a lesson, he says. "General consulting skills are the most critical." His ability to work with clients is more important than automobile industry experience. "Data is data, and process is process," he says. "The way you slice and dice groceries is the same way you slice and dice cars." In fact, switching industries is positive, Newcomb says. "It shows that I'm successful not because of any single industry. It shows flexibility."[20]

Newcomb's comments are valid in that "General consulting skills are the most critical". The only question is whether this is a client requirement when a project manager is selected. It is my opinion that a project manager with "general skills" only would not be chosen over a similarly skilled project manager but who also has content knowledge.

Rizzuto also deals with what employers think about "Whether project managers are free to roam from field to field. This is somewhat controlled by employers, who are generally hesitant to accept such movement." Jernigan observes that "Most companies feel that a project manager has to be an industry expert as well." However, research shows just how common it is to switch industries. More than one-third of employees laid off from work in one industry transferred their skills to another industry, according to Manchester Inc., a career consulting company. Manchester studied more than 1,700 managers and executives who were laid off during 2001 and who found new jobs.

Indeed, a project manager may be uniquely capable of managing his own career shifts. The bottom line is that project management training teaches you to consult technical experts, closely monitor all project phases and manage risks - including the ones that may come from your own inexperience. Concludes Alcalde: "In the first place, failure will come more from being an ineffective project manager rather than from being in a different industry."

Alcalde's last comment is probably a true reflection of what is required by a project manager. An "ineffective project manager" would probably not run unsuccessful projects and the converse would apply, no matter what the project managers' content or subject knowledge may be. It will be useful to look at some case studies to see if they back up this assertion.

The Author's View  The Author's View

20. Rizzuto, J.
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