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

Project Manager Selection

Are there better ways to select project managers? Paul Collins presented an interesting way in which to select a project manager for a particular project, see Figure 1.[8] (Collins, 1998).

.Figure 1: Project Manager Selection
Figure 1: Project Manager Selection

This is a useful table in that it takes a holistic view of the project manager candidates. It also provides for the addition of any selection criteria deemed relevant to a specific project. The results are scored and in the case of a close score between candidates, the candidates' availability could help swing the decision.

While this has merit, it must be noted that using the criteria in the table could result in selecting a project manager for the wrong reasons. Suppose that it is important for the project manager to be a subject matter expert (SME). This cannot be deduced from the table, as all the generic project manager skills, when totaled, could easily outweigh the SME skills. The thinking of Collins must therefore be that the project manager does not need to be an SME and this is, in fact what is implied in his paper. He says "The process focuses on the premise that a successful project manager must master two primary skill sets: the project manager's technical skills and leadership skills.

Collins' technical skills include items like: "Integration management, scope management, time management, cost management, quality management, risk management and procurement management. Leadership skills include items like individual influence, integrity, strategic leadership, teamwork and collaboration, communication and tenacity". He concludes: "As these [project managers] continue to improve, they can become more proficient in the role and assume a broader spectrum of complex projects. The technique presented in this paper has been implemented and successful in identifying and developing three project managers in the Capital Project organization of a major U. S. Manufacturer".[9] Perhaps this explains why so little weighting was given to the 'technical skills' section of Figure 1. This is because the project managers were placed in a particular industry in which they had already gained proficiency, rather than placed across different industries.

Gunson, de Blasis and Neary looked at the attributes needed by a project manager in implementations. They state that "The Standish Group (which does not particularly address Enterprise Resource Planning but Information Technology projects in general) in their updates of the CHAOS report (1995) suggest that there has been a slight improvement in the percentage of successful projects, mainly due to projects being over shorter duration. They point to project management as being a factor now near the top of the list of success factors. See Figure 2

Figure 2: Top five success factors in a project
Figure 2: Top five success factors in a project

Gunson, et al, observe: "This elevation of the success factor of 'Experienced Project Manager' is worth exploring. It is interesting as a success factor in that it suggests that in the person of the project manager lays an important indicator of success challenge or failure of the project".[10] This seems to be stating the obvious, but perhaps they need to define what they see as "experienced". Further on in the paper they quote Leif Edvinsson who said "The Project Manager is surrounded by peers. He or she cannot be expert in all the fields germane to the project and is more in the role of knowledge broker than knowledge expert".[11]

This opinion is endorsed by the authors when they answer their own question thus:

"What are the attributes that the Project Sponsor and the Steering Committee should be looking for as they select the Project Manager?
... the acid test for selection is:
  • How the candidate has acted and reacted in his prior functions,
  • How he or she is perceived by his / her peers,
  • How he or she answers to questions put concerning simulated project crisis situations and how they would handle them."

And the candidate's perception of self and self-concept.[12]

Lorda and Brown define self-concept as a broad amalgam of knowledge, experience, self views, possible selves, self relevant goals, that individuals see as self relevant or self descriptive.[13] They conclude "... choice of the project manager should result in an affirmative answer to the question posed by Leif Edvinsson: 'are they able to ask and listen to what they do not know that they do not know?'[14]".[15]

This implies that the term 'experienced' does not necessarily apply to content knowledge, but rather that the project manager should have familiarity with running projects in general. This is echoed by Aumann, Stahmer and Green et al: "The importance of the role of project manager - being able to provide leadership as well as project management ability.[16],[17] Once again, there is no mention of content knowledge.

In the Literature  In the Literature

8. Collins, P, 1998, Project Manager Selection and Development Process, 1998 PMI International Symposium in Long Beach, California
9. Collins, P, 1998
10. Gunson, J, de Blasis J, Neary, M, Leadership in real time: a model of five levels of at-tributes needed by a project manager in ERP implementations, 2003
11. Edvinsson, Leif, April 2003, Guest Speaker Plenary Session, 4th annual conference Organizational Knowledge, Learning and Capabilities (OKLC)
12. Gunson, et al
13. Lorda, R, Brown, D, 2001, Leadership, Values, and Subordinate Self-Concepts, Leadership Quarterly, Summer 2001, Vol.12, Issue 2.
14. Edvinsson, et al
15. Gunson, et al
16. Stahmer, A & Green, L n.d., Decision Tools: What to consider When Partnering for Learnware, The Office of Learning Technologies Human Resources Development, Canada. (not currently available online)
17. Aumann T, Richardson, C & Weller S 2001, Partnerships in the Development of Online Learning Materials, Paper and workshop presented at NET*Working 2001, Brisbane. Stahmer & Green n.d., sec. 3
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