The Path Less Travelled: Growing And Keeping PMs

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Attracting and maintaining the enthusiasm of good project managers appears to be a growing problem for many organizations. One has to question how serious organizations are about solving this dilemma, however, given that so few have taken concrete action in addressing it. As discussed in the last column in this series, organizations are more likely to hire externally than they are to develop skills internally. Even the simplest of retention strategies--the career path--is all too often overlooked.
Given the prevalence of project management as a discipline today, it is astonishing that only a small number of organizations have a formal career path defined for their project management staff. It’s better than a few years ago, but the simple fact is that there are still a surprisingly small number of places that actually have any clear career path for project management. Even the definition of the role of project manager is one that does not exist as a defined position in approximately half of organizations today, let alone a progression of related positions that someone can move through as they develop their skills and abilities.
If we are going to be serious about developing project management as an organizational capability, we’re also going to have to get serious about developing project managers, starting with how we attract them and continuing with how we grow …

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