Project Management

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Topics: Career Development, Talent Management
Majors and Minors
PM Friedos - as we look towards the future of PM and the skills required to succeed, our company is leaning towards having a more multi-skilled workforce that can handle different types of challenges. When I look at PMs, I believe the foundational PM tradecraft skills should be a given for any PM, but what sets them apart and allows them to grow is another expertise in another area.

We are tossing around this concept of Major and Minors or Foundational Skills plus Specialty Badges of Recognition. For instance, you would have a PM as the major and then you might have a Technical Minor in cloud architectures or networking. These minors / badges help to define a PM better and gives them additional areas for career growth. On the converse we would look at all of our PM positions and signify which minors / badges are relevant for the position.

When I think of types of minors / badges I see technical, business (BPR), methodologists (Scrum, Agile), Acquisition / contracts. Can you think of others that are outside the normal PM skills like risk, budgeting, etc?

Do your organizations doing anything like this to better upskill PMs and make them more meaningful that just schedule watchers?

Thanks for the help and happy holidays.
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I would think that most organisations have personnel files and that these personnel files would include for all a person's skills. Not as a badge but as a written up experience and whatever formal training that person may have. I would also expect a persons immediate supervisor to know their staff and not rely on a badge system. If this is not occurring then the corporation is mishandling its resources.

Badges are typically used as recognition and presented at awards ceremonies - employee of the month, attendance at high profile functions, etc., but don't have much meaning beyond that. In elementary school the teacher put stars on my work as a means of recognition. Maybe do the same and keep a running total of stars earned.

If you are looking at badges for skill recognition you have to establish standards, specific requirements, possibly validation tests which have to be consistently applied. Otherwise they are seen for what they are - fluff.

A corporation that I was involved with tried to set up a skill recording system of sorts. They asked staff to fill in forms reflecting their major and minor skills. You would be surprised what people claimed and when management tried to validate there was significant push-back. Apparently skill levels are very subjective.

If I was awarded badges of recognition what should I do with them? List them on my office door, on my business card, include them in my introduction: "Hi, I'm Peter, specialising (major) in project delivery with badges (minors) in communications, story telling or raconteur, client liaison, wine tasting and beer making.

As another thought, I don't see the organisation as the main instrument of upskilling PMs through badges. I see the PMs effectively and professionally performing as PMs as the main driving force skill recognition.

I'm being somewhat negative here, as has my experience, and see more down-side (risk) than benefit from this type of grading system. It may result in mismanagement by executives and resented by staff.
The future of project manager is on business analysis field just to take some skills some PMs do not have incorporated. This is not new. The PMI visualize it in 2010. My recommendation is taking a look to that.

I have seen what you call minors like in transformation, negotiation, change management, and could imaging some in leadership like facilitators, MoCs, moderators.

Are minors extensions of the major, then what about leveling up the major, like project manager program manager PMO director.


Peter - thanks for the honest feedback. So here is the conundrum. We did a PM effectiveness study and realized that based on future work our PMs were not upskilled appropriately in a few specialty type areas. For instance, we are a technical company and we want a majority of our PMs to have some level of technical expertise. We also want our PMs to have more of a role / function in acquisitions.

What we would like to do is formally align training tracks to these specific areas and then align our positions to ask for these skills as a requirement. As an FYI, our folks can move around to different jobs within the company throughout their career, so these changes are more for internal people rather than trying to recruit outside people.

We had discussed creating specific career tracks that PMs could align to either for technology, acquisitions or business, but I am not a big fan of that approach since I don't want PMs to be pigeon holed to one thing for their career. My thought is rather than formally pick a track, PMs could gain these skills as defined by formal training tracks and then can align to the jobs that require these specific skills.

I guess we can make this a very informal thing, but our organization wants to put an emphasis on these "minors". I will definitely heed your advice and your experiences as we look to roll something out.
I understand where you are coming from. In the age of specialisation its harder and harder to get people that have the broad knowledge to effectively deliver projects. In some ways project management has become too administrative relying on subject matter experts (SMEs) for all technical matters. Not only engineering and architecture but also cost estimators, schedulers, risk managers, procurement and contract managers, quality control, etc.

My experience and preference is to evolved/develop SMEs into project managers rather than the other way around. Might be a bit bias here as I started as an engineer. I have found that Project Manager acceptance by management, stakeholders and team much greater when they have recognised and demonstrable technical skills especially when there is misunderstanding as to what a PM does.

Being a technical company I expect you have the technical people to draw from - engineers, technologists, etc. The challenge becomes identifying the ones with aptitude and interest, defining the required end state and plotting a course to get there. The course should combine formal training (external with certification) and exposure (experience).

Good luck with your "project". You have a statement of need, hopefully some funding. All you need to do now is apply project management methodologies and deliver.
I tend to agree with Peter's input. I have seen this done by trying to create a "skill cloud" for individuals. Unfortunately it tends to follow the GIGO rule.

Yes, absolutely management should be on top of who has what skills. Often they don't. I have been amazed at how many of my own managers have never even seen my resume. That being said...

There are a few ways to base your majors and minors. You can align people functionally (where they are in the org), or by specialty. If organizations are unique enough, the expertise might be in that org. For instance in aerospace or automotive, you might have people aligned to structures, payloads, systems, integration, propulsion, and vehicle performance. PM is a skill required in each function. Or you can do it the other way with the PM as the top layer and the technology 2nd.

I would avoid trying to hold people to 1 minor. Some people accumulate a lot of knowledge over their careers. "Badges" do sound like a novelty, but having a way to know who's the 6 sigma expert in addition to the technical domain and PM job role is helpful so don't overly limit yourself.

You can also align some jobs to where they fall in the process. Like with the contracts, some people can be experts on architecting a product at the beginning while others may be experts in the closure and delivery phase. Others may be skilled in transitional processes. Education development is an example. I have worked with highly skilled people in our training center who know less about the products, and more about how to develop and deploy effective training. Think about some of those side specialties focused less on how to develop the product, and more about how to develop the organization.

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