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There are too many Projects and few Project Managers

| Posted in Project Management | | 889 views

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Some Project Managers get PMP certified just to add ,PMP to their email signature! Yesterday I had a very interesting brief discussion with PMOT (project managers on Twitter), we were discussing how a lot of people are shifting their careers to project management and how some people who are not qualified to be project managers are really distorting the image of good ones, some PMOT said that most of today’s PMs are average ones and others found no issue at all, for me I have different view point, in this post I will reply to the discussion that we had on Twitter.

I personally believe that the project manager himself can be the no. 1 reason for a project failure, I already have written an article about this topic, check my article Why Projects Fail (Part 3), ironically the project may be stumbling and the project manager will keep looking for reasons why the project is behind, while he may be the main reason for project failure, a lot of project managers have come accidently to this profession, because apparently no one is born a project manager! While some are doing great, others are stuck in it! Playing an outstanding project manager’s role requires exceptional skills, the project manager gets challenged each and every day with problems to be solved, conflicts to be resolved, hectic calendar to be organized, a staggering number of tasks to be identified, logged, planned, tracked and more importantly PRIORTIZED, I cannot think of any other role more complex than the project manager’s role, comparatively, a functional manager’s role is much more easier especially a functional manager does not have to keep wrestling the triple constraints and often times he has resources that can be utilized, sadly sometimes a project manager will have zero resources and yet will be asked to deliver, and so he has to use his negotiation skills to get resources.

Communication is the meat and potatoes of the project manager’s role, communication in all directions, up and down, left and right, in and out, et cetera, it has been inherited that the project manager spends 90% of his time communicating, I had questioned this figure in my post 90% for Communication is Not Enough, with each and everyone; with team members, senior management, executives, vendors, media, testing team, end users, and customers. the successful project manager needs to have great communication skills, I cannot think of any good project manager who is negative or always dismissive, some project managers do not listen!

I do believe that so many project managers approach the project management as some kind of babysitting, spoon feeding, and of course micro-management, all these lead to certain failure, though the project manager may be PMP certified, majority of project managers do not try to apply the bare minimum of the standard, they just use it to increase the likelihood of getting a better job, and in case they get asked about certain deliverable such as quality plan, they just get one of the templates that are available for free, fill the blanks, and voila! and definitely plans that are developed this way will get shelved, from other perspective, many project managers, especially those who come from technical background, see project management as a career upgrade and relief of technical life.

Let’s be honest, our job has got bad reputation during the past few years, look at the exponentially increasing number of PMP certified professionals and you will get to know, I personally believe that PMP is not a silver bullet, I will derive you a very simple example, look at Communication knowledge area, what did you learn after studying it? while we have been getting reminded each and every day 90% 90% 90%, OK then what? the knowledge area does not teach you body language, it doesn’t teach you how to put para-lingual communication in practice, it does not even mention it! it doesn’t teach you how to practice effective communication nor how to write an understandable email and get your message across!

Projects fail ?! Yes they do, and project managers are responsible to some considerable % of this failure.. so we do have many projects and few REAL project managers

I coined the following quotes out of my passion to this job and derived by those project managers who make the job’s name worse!

If you are not happy with the project management job, you can try babysitting, both are almost the same the only difference is babies’ age and salary

Who said PMPs do not apply the PMP practices! They do on daily basis in email signature

There are too many projects and few project managers

You also what do you think? Do you get annoyed when you meet on of those fake project managers? Do you feel that your job as a project manager has got a bad reputation because of those? Please feel free to have an objective discussion here and leave a comment!

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Comments (36)

From my perspective project management is one of those careers where experience and a successful track record count for far more than any piece of paper.

No two projects are the same. Admittedly there will always be an element of similarity where the project manager duties are concerned.

But from my perspective two key areas which are always overlooked are, project communications management and project quality management.

The reality is that there are too many project managers who having got the PMP now think that delivering projects is all about plans and risk logs. It isn’t.

Having turned around and delivered numerous highprofile projects and programs it is project manager’s such as these who cause a great many failed projects. If you want to deliver projects start really communicating and leading. And the best way to do this is to get stuck in and do what is right for the project, not your own perceived self image!

Regards

Susan de Sousa
Site Editor http://www.my-project-management-expert.com

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I think you went a bit too far with:

I cannot think of any other role more complex than the project manager’s role

As for one of recent discussions on AskAboutProjects (http://askaboutprojects.com/questions/1019/can-a-project-manager-also-be-a-good-entrepreneur-business-owner) the first example of more difficult role is being an entrepreneur.

Anyway I agree that PMP doesn’t make you a good PM automatically. I also agree many people become PMs by accident but that’s not really a problem. A problem is that once they start dealing with projects they rarely have good role models around to learn from.

Even though project management is rather a complex role it isn’t rocket science. With a decent teacher/mentor around it shouldn’t be much of a problem to become a good PM.

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Hi Pawel,

I was speaking in context of the project environment that is why I compared the PM’s role to functional manager’s, maybe I didn’t make that clear..

Yes nobody is born a manager and many of us accidentally came to this field, however some people try to do better and others do not.. but don’t you agree that the PM field has got some bad reputation?

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Hi Susan,

Thank you so much for sharing your unique experience, I know that you do not believe so much in PM certificates, it is just an exam at the end of the day, and we all know that PM is not all about the PMBOK! if communication was 90% then soft skills contributes to over 90% of the PM arena!

Cheers..

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Hi Kareem,

I have no issue with project manager certification. My issue is that Organisations seem to think being a PMP equates to being a good project manager, as do many of those who have the qualification.

I’ve seen this happen in IT networking in particular. All that happens is that rates go down as the market get’s saturated and it takes about 5 years for Orgs to realise they need people with experience.

So by all means have PM qualifications. Just make them sufficiently hard so they are a barrier to entry and ensure quality. Don’t have a 3 hour multiple choice exam and then become an accredited project manager!

Successful project management demands and deserves much more than that!

Regards

Susan de Sousa
Site Editor http://www.my-project-management-expert.com

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Hi Susan,

I enjoyed your article Successful Project Management, like you said nobody will ever remember the plan you’ve created they will remember the ultimate outcome of the project whether it succeeded or failed,

like we discussed over twitter, we have too many managers and few leaders :)

Regards.

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Like the post. For years people have been waking up in the shower and deciding I will be a Project Manager and cooking up a CV. I know this happens after spending a year interviewing lots of Project Management Candidates for a major big 5 consultancy. Really depressing !!
The real problem having done a little research on the the failed candidates is that most of them found jobs with well known software houses. In most cases they found jobs where the people doing the interviewing were HR with heavy involvement from Sales People. Sales People want soft touches and as long as these Frauds look confident and good enough to put in front of a client thats all they care about. They don’t want anyone who is going to get in the way of a cheap quote to fatten up short term commissions at the expense of long term account profitability. NEVER EVER have sales people interview and influence the selection of Delivery Manager. Number one cardinal rule if your interested in running a high margin software house.

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I agree with what’s been said here.

I’m curious why no one here is talking about certifications based on competency though? There are certifications out there like that.

Moving towards a true profession is the key in my mind. Like law or medicine there could be a path through university and internships and true professional certification.

It’s helter-skelter right now and we get good PMs not because of any purposeful professional path.

Today they come from on the job training and self-initiated professional development and the rare organization who really puts a lot of time and money into growing their project managers with formal training and internship programs.

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The link didn’t show up well above but you can click on this to go to the post I was referring to:

PM Certifications

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Hi Kevin,

Yes it is very depressing, just more scenarios to add:

1- If you have someone who’s certified and unqualified and another candidate who’s not certified and very qualified, first one is selected, some companies opt to hire certified candidates so they can charge the customer more and market the PMP project manager as if he will use PMP to solve all the problems of the world!

2- About sales people, often times they select candidates based on their nationality, hair & skin colour, accent, etc. again they use those to magnify the PM in the customer’s eyes and consequently charge more!

While you may be wondering, but this is what’s happening on the ground!

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i agree with points one and two. But in my experience the point two is often more important. One PM at a higher charge out rate compares poorly to a failed deal because the PM is not sales Commission compliant. Sales people /Client Partners are always looking at the big picture price ticket. For this reason Avanade and Accenture run PM selection case study scenarios to assess technical capability and ability to withstand pressure to compromise account profitability in order to feather a Sales Persons commission payments. As mentioned the problem is not with these highly profitable consulting organisations who trust me have the “secret sauce” of project success understood. Its the rest of the industry where low integrity, low domain knowledge PMs find work. These guys really give a bad name for those of use who try to do a proper job and deliver high customer satisfaction and a profitable outcome for our employer

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Yes Kevin, those are the ones who make you try to prove that you’re a good PM when you meet someone for the first time and mention that you are a PM!

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A very good article!

What’s even worse is that universities now have undergraduate degrees in Project Management, which is probably the only profession (yes, PM Is a Profession) that you can’t learn in school (you need the hands-on experience).

I hope I’m wrong, but if the trend continues, then the results are obvious:

- Saturation of the job market with under-qualified Project Managers.
- Less money for real Project Managers.

Again, I hope I’m wrong.

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Hi PM Hut,

Thank you for your comment,

You are absoultely right, and the results you mentioned are already happening today, the market is already saturated, and this defintely led to less pay for good project managers, during recession times companies will always seek mediocre candidates to cut costs, looks like that project management is the new job for the jobless!

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Hi PM Hut,

Yes sadly that is exactly what is and will keep happening. I was speaking to a friend in the US yesterday who has so much fantastic experience of delivering big high profile projects. He told he he had to be PMP etc qualified otherwise Corporations wouldn’t even look at his CV despite his contacts.

How pathetic is that? But sadly I see project management going to same way as IT Networking. With the advent of the MCP and MCSE (all multiple choice) the market was flooded with supposedly qualified people. It caused market rates to tumble and the amount of networking disasters to go up.

I don’t know what the answer is sadly as we appear to be on a one way path to mediocrity and ultimately causing project manager’s to become glorified paper pushers.

Regards

Susan de Sousa
Site Editor http://www.my-project-management-expert.com

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Well Susan,

Herein my response to you: “Who Moved my Cheese?” ;)

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On the bright side more and more companies are becoming projectized and this is driving demand for Project Managers in general. Well, you can’t have it all all the time!

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Projectized environment is ideal for the project manager, however it may keep the team worried about their destiny after the project has completed, which will somehow require more motivational activities from the project manager, yet it is much more better than the weak matrix environment!

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” many project managers, especially those who come from technical background, see project management as a career upgrade and relief of technical life. ”

I think this is the point , most of them don’t have the required skills.

Any job not just the knowledge but also it’s the desire to make the best things in your field not to be another guy do the thing. :)

Great Article Kareem.

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I have worked with companies who speak about project management like this the key to their success. However, non-of these companies take the PM principles seriously and fail to implement the required steps to make a project manager successful. I believe project management is really about risk management and no one pays attention to doing this even at the planning phase.

Everyone works like a techie (no offense because I was a techie) who jumps right in to fix the problem. I had even wondered why some organizations would hire a PM and not really understand what a PM does…

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Hi Randy,

I really like your perspective, companies visualize the project management as the remedy for all problems and they provide zero support for the project manager in order to succeed, this is quite ironic!

About Risk, nobody is acting upon risks, rather risks act upon us, when they hit then the real pain is felt!

You shouldn’t be wondering why companies hire a PM if they neither understand nor support a project manager’s role, because when the project fails someone will have to be there to take all the BLAME!

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They hire them because they think they are line managers who motivate people. Just like themselves. Nothing more and nothing less and motivated people can achieve wonderous things. Deep down this is the main requirement.

Start talking about risk management and Transparency and you’ll scare them rigid. They’ll think they have employed a line manager with the wrong attitude or as I have heard many time the wrong management style.

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Kevin,

I don’t believe such organizations would care about motivation, believe me it is all about taking the blame, and letting fingers know where to point when the crisis hits!

It also may be for cosmetic reasons, if you have a project you must have a project manager as well! otherwise there would be no project, quite funny :)

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Kareem-

I absolutely love this blog post. One of the things that I’m seeing here in the United States is the abundance of people who get into the project management profession for the supposed power and prestige that comes with the position. This tends to happen with any management job, not just project management.

Project managers need to have a clear, holistic picture of what being a project manager means. They also need a good support system or mentor that can help guide them through the ups and downs of managing projects.

I wonder how many companies out there actually have a project management training program where they require new or emerging project managers to participate before they assume leadership of a project. I would LOVE to see this.

Jhaymee Wilson
@TheGreenPM (on Twitter)

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Right on Brother. Agree :)

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I am not PMP qualified. I am from the UK and PRINCE2 and MSP is what counts hear. All I can say is that having a formal project management qualification is important. Without it you have to learn a lot of needless and costly lessons which no one can afford these days especially when the odds of project success are stacked against you whatever your expereince or skill level. The key thing I have found working for the big 5 consultancies is that professional qualifications combined with energy, high IQ and the right mentoring leverage can really make a project portfolio fly on the cheap. Having reviewed project portfolios with budgets in access of £200 million I can tell you this is the secret sauce. The future as is the case in accountancy and other professions is all going to be about Pedigree (who mentored you Accenture etc) and Professional and Academic performance. This trend is already happening. Believe me.

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Kevin, it is not only IQ I have strong belief that EQ is much more important for us in this hectic fast frenzy life!

A lot of people are saying PM certification is not important, well, they should get it, it won’t harm but it definitely can help, like many people commented, a lot of companies screen resumes based on the criteria of certified or not certified.

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Great conversation, and thank you to everybody that has taken the time to contribute.
I am a project manager that was trained on the job. We all know how the construction has fared, and the company I worked for went under, allowing me to concentrate full-time on my MBA. The PM jobs that I have looked at in various fields, have nearly all asked which certifications I hold, and most have asked specifically for the PMP. So, guess what I’m doing on top of finishing my MBA? My experience as a PM in construction has been given virtually zero recognition as an indicator of potential PM success in non-construction fields. I understand, and I’ll jump through the hoops to make them more comfortable with my abilities by presenting them with a PMP certification. I actually enjoy the material so far, and I will be proud of my PMP certification when I get it.
- Jason Martin

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You know what Jason, when I was studying for PMP exam I struggled a bit with the style of PMBOK and a few topics, and did not find many people to help with that, so I wish you success with your study, and also would love to help you with any questions or inquiries you may have, not only you, I’d love to help anyone who’s studying for PMP as much as I can…

Good Luck!

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I appreciate it and, in the short time since being introduced into social media, I have found a ton of very helpful resources including yourself.
Thank you!
- Jason Martin

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Great post, Kareem, and great discussion. I agree that we have too few good PMs, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not just the barely-qualified who somehow get their PMP or the hiring managers who see PMP and look no further.

It’s because many good people see the challenges and abuse heaped on PMs and say, “no way am I subjecting myself to that when I can stay in software development (or network engineering or functional management or whatever) and face far less confrontation.” (Not that those careers don’t have their own challenges.) I vaguely remember a definition of a PM as someone who does something that’s never been done before with too few resources for someone who doesn’t know what they want. I guess not enough people want to jump into that arena!

As for the certification, I see value in it if it’s used properly by the PM and viewed properly by the hiring manager. Again, great article and thanks for provoking a great discussion.

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Hi Brian,

Your point is very much valid, I have seen a lot of people oppose the idea of shifting to project management, despite having good management skills and promising career path, they do not want to take the risk of being responsible for projects, the idea is quite common amongst both juniors and experienced people.

They work in projects and see the magnitude of responsibilities put on the project manager and they visualize in the same troubles and get scared, some reasons that scare them are:

- Culture: a lot of organizations do not value the project manager’s role, yet they want one!

- Organizational Awareness: many organizations have projects but when you try to ask people how they understand the meaning of a project they fail to give an answer, this makes the life of the project manager so bad, especially in weak matrix organization (read my previous post about Weak Matrix Syndrome on this blog)

- Complexity of the job : a project manager is the hub for the project activities and communication, not everyone will like the idea of complex communication

The bottom line is that, people prefer to do the work rather than manage the work, they can deliver very specific and defined task but they are not willing to take the responsibility and high risk of failure, and by the way most of these people work on projects that FAIL, that’s why they never want to be project managers!

Thanks Brian for your great inputs!

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[...] managers and so on. While I agree with most of  them, one post , written by Kareem Shaker – There are too many Projects and few Project Managers   – made me think that we might emphasize the least important [...]

Kareem, thanks for commenting on my post http://whitestoneshaping.com/2010/01/23/soft-project-management/ and referencing this one.

Good topic. I agree the world is full of people that manage initiatives and call themselves project managers, but that neither what they do or are, truely is Project Management. Project Management is a skill and an art in and of itself that requires the practitioner to be a dedicated student and experiential learner.

While I also agree that a piece of paper doesn’t prove you are a good Project Manager, I believe with it’s requirement to demonstrate thousands of hours of verifyable practical experience, PMI goes further than most. Also, remember that the PMBOK was intended to be a guide to a standard focusing on “what” not “how”. It has it’s purpose. The specific how and how-to’s of “Sixth Sense” training I refer to in my post fills that gap and is why I found it to be such a terrific and valuable experience.

Love your PM passion!

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[...] came across a couple pieces, one by Kareem Shaker and another by Derek Huether. They echoed some of my own sentiments about the real value of the [...]

[...] came across a couple pieces, one by Kareem Shaker and another by Derek Huether. They echoed some of my own sentiments about the real value of the [...]

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