Given project success is central to an organizations ability to compete, the question becomes, how does the organization develop competent project managers?
(As a side note: In order to keep this blog discussion short and to the point, I’m going to ignore complicating factors such as the boon/bust economic cycles, the growing highly mobile workforce, contracting project management services, etc.)
New project management positions are going to be filled by either current employees or new hires. The transition of the current employee to project manager is where we started this discussion. Assuming the organization has a candidate capable of making the transition successfully (that is, they have the interpersonal skills); it is still a long road from techie to project manager. Those attempting it may be frustrated with the progress because at best it will be a lateral move, but more probably a step backwards (smaller projects, lack of experience, leadership challenges, etc.)
The other alternative source for a project manager is a new hire. The road to bring on a productive individual is shorter because you can hire education/certification and experience. The key challenge with this route is establishing the candidate’s level of interpersonal skills for leadership and the cultural fit to the organization.
In either case, current employee or new hire, the organization should focus on:
- Recruiting and selecting individual with the strong interpersonal skills
- Develop transition programs to make the individual productive, at the base-level, as quick as possible
Further there is the issue of organizational support for development of all project managers over time. In sports-speak, the organization needs to constantly strengthen their project manager bench. A strong bench not only provides for effective project execution, but it also helps with unforeseen circumstances, like attrition. Some things that need to be considered are:
- Career paths for project managers, based on competence level
- Career path levels with authority, based on importance to the organization
- Support continuous education with defined goals; individual as well as the organization
- Measure project manager performance with key success factors that relate to their role
- Active participation in mentoring and coaching programs
What does all this mean in a nutshell?