Talent management is a hot topic in organizations around the world. That's why, over the next few weeks, Voices on Project Management is bringing you a roundtable series on the subject.
This week's discussion reflects on three critical project management skillsets -- technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management skills -- as revealed in PMI's Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ In-Depth Report: The Competitive Advantage of Effective Talent Management.
We asked them: Does your project experience support the growing importance of these skills? If not, how does it differ?
MÃ¡rio Henrique Trentim, PMI-RMP, PMP: Yes, but we need balance between the three.
I advise new professionals to focus on technical skills because that will make them valuable project professionals. Having a strong project management background enables you to aim for higher positions.
It is also important to develop soft skills such as leadership and communication. Especially in projects, we deal and work with a lot of internal and external stakeholders.
Finally, every organization -- whether a for-profit or not-for-profit -- needs strategy and business management. And since projects drive business results, project professionals must understand business and strategic management and align projects with the organization's goals. Otherwise, we waste a lot of time, money and resources.
Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP: Yes. Organizations are looking to hire a project professional with "hybrid business-technical" experience. These types of professionals are in high demand, as organizations have had successful projects by aligning projects and strategy to achieve strategic goals and sustain a competitive advantage.
To foster individuals with this "hybrid business-technical" experience, organizations are implementing stretch assignments as part of the talent development. For example, the project manager may not have business skills, but as the project progresses, the project manager will acquire business skills through formal or on-the-job training, or through a coach or mentor. And other organizations are transferring project ownership to individuals with business acumen and mastery of soft skills. Organizations are then enrolling them in project management classes, for example.
Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP: Technical project management skills have never been enough to run projects successfully. Leadership has always been a critical component of any successful manager's skillset.
Strategic and business management skills are a different matter. Organizational leadership needs to ensure projects are aligned to strategic objectives. They must also ensure that the organization is capable of managing the processes around and supporting projects -- from innovation and portfolio selection to developing project career paths -- to generate value. There's an African saying: "It takes a village to raise a child." The same is true of projects: It takes a complete organization to achieve value from its projects.
The project manager's role is to deliver the project "right," and this means being aware of wider organizational implications. However, senior management's responsibility is to make sure the right projects are being done for the right strategic reasons.
Kevin Korterud: The complexity and scale of projects today demands a balanced set of skills. To be effective, project professionals need to have a 360-degree view of the technical aspects, team leadership and business impacts of projects.
As a foundation, a project manager must have some form of technical project management and be effective at leading. Since consumers receive some form of outcome from your project, strategic and business management skills are essential. The ability to translate project activities into business results requires an understanding of the business strategies of your sponsors and consumers.
At the end of the day, a project manager must provide direction on the technical aspects for the project team; fulfill the role of leader in the eyes of the sponsors; and keep in mind that the solutions you create for a consumer must have relevance to their business.
Vivek Prakash, PMP: I see a focus on training more for technical skills than on leadership, and very little for business management skills. Lack of business management skills makes it difficult for a project manager to align projects with organizational strategies. That means a large number of strategies are not implemented successfully. Developing strategic skills helps project managers connect business objectives with project objectives.
I believe that leadership skills are the most important of the three. The project manager's primary role is to get the work done by the team. Often pressure techniques are used, but leadership skills help project managers play the role of facilitator and create a productive environment.
In my opinion, interpersonal skills are even more important. They are the basis for acquiring leadership skills and help project managers get buy-in from other stakeholders. Therefore, developing interpersonal skills for project managers should be the top priority of any organization.
If you've ever been in a corporate training session, chances are you've noticed fellow project managers coming in late, or not at all. The excuse is often, "There is so much pressure on the project that it's very difficult to make time for training."
In my experience, project managers who choose work over training often expect the same from team members. So when a project is running, learning all but stops. But here's a thought: Upgrading skills and project execution can -- and should -- take place in tandem.
Consider these two scenarios:
In today's fast-changing world, it is necessary to continuously upgrade skills beyond what you can learn on the job to overcome future challenges. In the first scenario, the project manager consistently misses opportunities to upgrade skills. After some time, the organization finds it difficult to provide better and more challenging assignments due to lack of skills. The organization will very likely lose a frustrated project manager. In the long term, both the organization and project manager are in lose-lose situation.
In the second scenario, the project manager not only focuses on efficient execution but also prepares himself or herself and team members for current and future challenges. Due to time constraints, this is the hardest option for a project manager, but it's also the most rewarding. The key is developing a plan that combines learning and execution.
For example, a project manager might enroll in a training session that pulls him or her away from the workplace. This forces the project manager to delegate his or her tasks to team members. In turn, that gives team members an opportunity to lead during the project manager's absence -- and experiment and learn what they will do in future. The net result is a positive cascading effect that upgrades the skills of everyone on the project.
Here is a simple plan to get you started:
With a firm training schedule, you and your team members can feel at ease to attend trainings. And since training sessions directly enhance skills for all roles, everyone can feed their newfound knowledge into the project.
Do you prioritize training over execution, or vice versa? How are you ensuring you advance your skills in the face of project work?
Learn more about how organizations can recruit, train and retain talent in "Mind the Gap," a PM Network® online exclusive.
For all the talk of an economic recovery, many organizations continue to obsess over headcount. But a smaller (and smarter) group is focusing on getting the right people on the right projects -- positioning those people and the organization itself to grow.
The payoff can be huge, according to PMI's Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ In-Depth Report: Talent Management. On average, 72 percent of projects meet their original goals and business intent at organizations with significant or good alignment between their talent management and organizational strategies. Now put that up against the 58 percent rate at organizations with moderate or weak alignment.
Despite the potential ROI, only 10 percent of organizations report significant alignment. That stat takes on added significance when you consider what's shaping up as a true talent crisis.
Pulse data revealed four in five organizations report difficulty in finding qualified project management candidates to fill open positions. Some organizations are resorting to some serious poaching -- check the battle for project talent between Silicon Valley tech titans Apple, Google, Yahoo! and Facebook. China Road and Bridge Corporation is adopting a more long-term approach, according to China Daily. Looking to build talent in a strategic market for its projects, the company is sponsoring a group of Congolese students to study engineering and project management in Xi'an, China.
In this case, organizations that align talent management and strategy have an edge, reporting less difficulty in filling open positions.
Organizations that align talent management to organizational strategy are also more effective at implementing formalized career paths, with 83 percent moving new hires to advanced project management positions. Among organizations with weak alignment, that number drops to 62 percent.
The MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, clearly outlines the path up. It requires 10 years of experience (including five years of project management) and a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential for senior project managers who manage highly complex strategic projects that span three or more organizational boundaries. Establishing a career path not only makes employees feel like the organization has a vested interest in them, it also helps the organization spot -- and close -- any skills gaps that might prevent it from delivering on its business goals.
Recruiting and retaining top talent will only get organizations so far. They need to measure results, too. Across the board, organizations with strong alignment are more likely to measure outcomes such as staff turnover, learning development, and employee engagement, retention and productivity.
U.S. space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), for example, tracks the effectiveness of its professional development courses by assessing enrollment numbers and feedback from senior leadership. Armed with that information, the PMI Global Executive Council member knows what's working -- and what's not.
No doubt, creating a talent management program comes with a hefty price tag. But consider the danger of skimping: On a US$1 billion project, organizations with significant or good alignment of talent management programs to organizational strategy put US$50 million fewer dollars at risk than organizations with moderate or weak alignment.
With those kinds of numbers on the line, the bigger question is: Can an organization afford not to make the investment?
|To be great in project management, we can't only be familiar with our role as the project manager. We must be educated about other roles in the profession, as well as most, if not all, knowledge areas.|
But project managers often do the work they like and are familiar with, rather than work that needs to be done. Even if it's work that contributes to a project's overall success, I find that many of us focus on tasks that we're familiar with or that we already know we're good at.
Regardless of how great I am with some tasks, I know that I must fill in my own knowledge gaps with team members' expertise. Because in addition to being a good project manager, the real trick to getting things done is surrounding myself with a capable, well-trained project team.
Instead of trying to learn everything and being everything to everyone, I accept that I won't always know it all. I ask for input from the team on a regular basis. This makes the team feel needed and appreciated for their contributions and makes the project execution more efficient.
Do you tackle the tasks you're good at rather than those that need to get done? How do you balance your own expertise with that of your team members?
|After my last post, I received a thoughtful e-mail from a project manager in Barcelona, Spain. Because she was constantly criticized growing up, she said she had difficulty acknowledging others.|
One's ability to acknowledge is an interesting and important topic. Although it focuses on our personal issues regarding whether or not we were acknowledged in our families, our schools and in our early jobs, we are all people first and project managers second. Therefore I would like to address the heartfelt question that was raised, as it has importance for all of us.
A person's ability to acknowledge others freely, generously and sincerely is linked to the way we're raised. If we were encouraged and praised as children, we're likely to grow up with a deep sense of self-worth and confidence. If we were constantly criticized, we have more work to do to gain a sense of self-worth.
We have to become our own support system, which can be hard. And it's even harder to acknowledge others when we've feel like we have not been acknowledged for who we are and the contributions we make. If that's true for you, then you will have to push yourself more to deliver acknowledgments that may come to mind but that you may have trouble carrying out.
We as human beings crave acknowledgment. Receiving acknowledgements releases a chemical called dopamine in our brains that makes us feel good, perform better and work harder to get more of what's called "the dopamine drench," per an article titled "In Praise of Praising Your Employees" published in the Gallup Management Journal.
So here's my advice if you were underacknowledged in your earlier life: Start by taking stock of who you are and what your contribution is to your workplace, your family and to the world. Then you can exercise the muscle on the underside of your right arm, as you reach up and over to give yourself a pat on the back!
In my courses, we always start by telling each other something special and unique about ourselves. I invite all of you to do just that--share something special about yourself with a friend or coworker--and send me an e-mail telling me about it. With your permission, I might even post it.