Originally published as a blog on LinkedIn February 2014 under the banner The Project Manager Network - #1 Group for Project Managers. Copyright to the contributing authors.
Content extracted and published here June 2014.

Introduction | Max Wideman Interjected
Jim Brosseau Entered the Conversation | Max Wideman Takes Issue
A Formal Study with Interesting But Contrary Views | Bottom Line

A Formal Study with Interesting But Contrary Views

Of course, before you can practice the admirable approaches to getting the best out of project teams, as described in the preceding sections, you must get the job of being the project manager in the first place.

A recent study published in the Journal of Modern Project Management provides an interesting backdrop to the discussion. It examines the skills required of project managers in order to be selected in today's working environment. Authors Dr. Vittal Anantatmula, Michael Thomas, Ph.D., and Yang Fan, PhD. state in the Abstract of their paper:[1]

"There is no formula for finding the right project manager in today's dynamic project and organizational contexts. While some research has investigated and identified various skills and competencies project managers should demonstrate, less is known about the structure of project manager skills and competencies needed to fit the changing project environment and the impact of industry type on such structures. The objective of this research is to explore how the emphases of organizations in selecting project managers shifts over time and how it differs with industry type. It is expected that the findings of this study will provide insight into the prevailing state of project manager selection."

And in their introduction, the authors observe:[2]

"Needless to say, the project manager is a major resource to the project along with the team, the materials, and other inputs. Therefore the selection of a project manager with the right skills and competencies is critical to the project success."

However, after conducting their study and discussions, the authors conclude:[3]

"The purpose of this paper was to present a retrospective look at the practices of project management selection across various industries over the past 10 years and enhance the understanding of the role of project management in organizations.

By conducting a longitudinal analysis, the study provides evidence for organizations' emphasis on technical skills and the project-specific credibility of candidates more than on their general management or people skills. The study also showed that this preference of organizations also applied across industries. It seems that the organizations' view on the role of the project manager has not changed over the past years as many researchers expected. A project manager is still regarded as an executer of a project who needs to be equipped with unique technical expertise to complete the temporary tasks of the project rather than as a strategic enabler.

Our research results seem to be contrary to the trend proposed by many researchers that project management is becoming more about people management in the context of project management selection." (Emphasis added.)

The authors go on to add:[4]

"The difference can be partly explained by the nature of the project. That is, projects are the means to deliver new products, services and innovative solutions in increasingly knowledge intensive environments, thus, demanding a high level of technical skill from the project manager. It may also be explained by the progress of project management maturity in organizations, with standardized processes and procedures that relieve the project manager of excessive people management responsibilities. (Emphasis added.)

Our findings suggest that the selection emphasis on technical skills, irrespective of industry type, has some impact on project manager selection, as highlighted by many past research studies. However, that impact is not big enough to change the emphasis for selecting project managers.

The study could also have an impact on how a project manager places importance for training and education for career progression. Irrespective of industry type, project managers are still technical or project management-oriented rather than general management-oriented. Consequently, their careers will be shaped more by project management knowledge and techniques, rather than by general people skills."

Wideman Takes Issue  Max Wideman Takes Issue

1. Dr. Anantatmula, Vittal, Michael Thomas, Ph.D., & Yang Fan, PhD. A Longitudinal Study of the required skills of Project Managers published in the Journal of Modern Project Management, Mundo Press, Curitiba-PR, Brazil, January-April issue, 2014, pp54-65
2. Ibid, pp54-55
3. Ibid, p63
4. Ibid.
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