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Project Managers – What Is the Nature of “Experience”?
By Michael L Young

Gone are the days where just anybody can be a project manager. Lack of experience can be disastrous for organisations as recent high profile failures have demonstrated.

AIPM CEO Peter Shears said at a Canberra conference: “While older project managers had 30 years to develop skills, today’s generation has to fast track to accumulate the same range of skills in just five to 10 years”.

Organisations must be prepared to make an investment to cultivate PM capability for the long term. The key is providing practical experience to supplement formal learning. Rather than seeking a short term resolution to project backlogs, plans should utilise those backlogs as opportunities for aspiring PM’a to transfer learned knowledge.

There are 7 key elements to building organisational PM capability:

  1. Take a long-term view: don’t assume PM’s can simply be purchased;
  2. Apply a structured, 3-pronged program involving training, on-the-job experience and coaching and mentoring;
  3. Capture and share the experience of ‘older’ PM’s;
  4. Implement more formal methodologies such as PRINCE2. A process orientation empowers less experienced mangers to achieve quality outcomes.
  5. Execute a strong and formal organisational project governance mechanism to engender greater accountability in projects.
  6. Utilise the expertise available within the profession – don’t just take a ‘stab in the dark’.
  7. Start now! Organisations can’t afford to wait.

There is no doubt that quality project delivery is critical to business success. There is an ever-dwindling talent pool with which to meet a growing demand for project management of increasing complexity and maturity. Contemporary PM’s need a breadth and depth of skills that simple training can’t develop.

Organisations need to step forward and ‘take the bull by the horns’. They need to plan and implement formal project manager development structures – to cultivate a new breed of project managers that not only survive in this complex world but will excel.

Michael Young is Principal Consultant with ‘Transformed’ – Project Management Unleashed.

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