Project Management: Job or Ability?
Project management, admittedly, is a full-time occupation. But is it only an occupation, or is it a more universal skill? Should it be just a job or something everybody should have?
The answer, of course, is both. Ideally, everyone will have an advanced sense of project management, and the individuals in leadership positions should be the best at identifying the priorities and challenges central to the role of project manager.
Kyle Gingrich is PM project consultant and product manager for the Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) Project+. This is a vendor-neutral certification that verifies comprehension of core project management skills such as conflict resolution, negotiation, communication, team building and leadership, and setting and managing expectations. The exam gives managers the necessary skills to overcome obstacles and finish projects on time and within budget.
Gingrich said project management is a skill set that is valuable to any individual within an organization. But the extent to which this skill set is needed or is even central to a job role depends on the career in question.
“There are definitely people that are going to pursue project management as a career, and those are people that are going to be putting in the rigor of really high-end projects,” Gingrich said. “But for most people, project management is part of what they do on a day-to-day basis now.”
Gingrich also said many professionals likely engage in project management without even realizing it.
“What they don’t recognize a lot of times is that what they’re working on has the standard attributes of project management,” she said. “When you’re working in a job, you usually have things that have schedule impact, cost impact, resourcing issues, risks that could change how you work or what’s going to happen in your daily job. Those are all attributes of project management, and understanding how those attributes and the characteristics of project management work and impact your daily job are key to the overall objective of any company, purely for the fact that anything a company does for the most part is a team effort.”
This is where the individual in a team leadership role as a project manager comes into play.
“Somebody in a leadership position will typically be the one who has to convey the information [to upper-management], and they probably are going to be leading the project at the higher levels,” Gingrich said. “Where the lower-level project management skills come into play is helping them provide better information because they’re bringing the appropriate level of strategic thinking about the decisions that they’re making and the information they’re providing.”
Gingrich said an IT professional such as a network engineer could benefit from a project management skill set.
“Even though they may work with a project manager who drives the overall project, their small piece of it has a really large effect, and the decisions they make have a large impact,” she said. “For example, a company that has to work under Sarbanes-Oxley, now we have all these regulations that need to be adhered to, and you can’t make a global decision within an infrastructure without understanding all the implications to the schedule and all of that information.
“So, a network engineer has to be very savvy about the information that they’re feeding up through the food chain because whatever that information is now will potentially impact a decision of an internal or an external client. If that information isn’t reliable, and they haven’t thought through all the implications of their decision, that’s going to [have an] impact.”
At the same time, one stumbling block for people targeting a career in project management in the tendency to always think big, perhaps too big.
“People really focus on project management as a career, and when they look at it as a career, they think of the rigor that you’re going to need to have to do something like build a space shuttle,” Gingrich sai