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Topics: Agile, Change Management, Organizational Project Management
Why academics are unable in training students to the level where they can easily handle real life project management scenarios? Any suggestions what can be done to make this situation better?

Gap between real world practices of Project management versus on What level academics are training students with.
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PM maturity comes with experience, academics build the foundation.

I agree with Anupam proficiency comes from practice not from academics. Especially when dealing with people which is what PM's do every day. The transition from "Book Knowledge" to "Street Knowledge" comes with time and experience. Maybe it is time to re-introduce the concept of apprenticeship or on the reverse side of the same coin mentoring.

Hey folks,
I have worked at an organization where most PMs are not allowed to do the budgeting, a more senior PM is saddled with that while other PMs are tasked with other areas of managing projects (execution, monitoring & controlling and closing). I did this for 4 years and when i moved to another organization, would that make me a novice PM?

I think the gap we are all talking about is not just from education and experience. It is most likely due to what people have had a chance to do. Most organizations have a habit of placing people in the wrong roles. For example, I have seen an analyst who became a PM by rote without having any formal project management training and also a recent graduate giving a PM role with no support. How can these two individuals be successful when all the odds are pitted against them from the start.

Both of these individuals can do well if they start out as Junior PM under the supervision of an experienced PM. Instead, we expect them on Day 1 to step in and handle the reins. I cannot expect a Junior PM to have enough experience to handle a critical project without support of a PMO or other experienced PMs. Different organizations have different ways of interpreting the PMI-PMF (Project Management Framework) and while there are parallels, there are processes and management thoughts that are different. We should start a conversation about different roles; junior, mid-level and senior PMs. If we can standardize what organizations should expect from these roles, it may be a start to closing the gap.

I know what to expect from a Tier I, II and III helpdesk analysts and what to expect from a desktop technician or associate. It is not just about knowledge and/or experience, it is about hiring people for the right role. I have seen Technical PM job reqs that sounds like a Senior Systems Analyst / Engineer role than PM. A recruiter once called me for a PM role, and was asking me if i can write code, script and what my knowledge of SQL was. I asked her what does any of knowledge have to do with me managing a project team. A PM is not supposed to be a Software Architect/Database Administrator/Network Engineer. Having those skills/knowledge wouldn't necessarily make me better at managing people, technology or processes.

Yes you are right. There is no consistency and that promotion pattern you speak of is just a variation of the "Peter Principle". The reality is that the PM role is not really understood. It is the same corporate think that sees every engineer and every admin as interchangeable. We the real PM's of the world need to help the world to understand what the role really is about and what we have to offer.
That is why experience matters and why we need to identify and mentor the upcoming PM's. I love telling resource managers that 10 years of 1 year experience does not make a person with 10 years of experience. The growth of new employees needs to be directed they cannot be just dropped into the system and expected to float.

To "bring the lesson home" for college students studying project management, there's no substitute for hands-on learning whether the practice project would be on or off campus. In my experience, people become project managers after a mid-career change or promotion anyway, after they've already learned and contributed in another discipline. Little work experience can be difficult to translate to management and leading people.
1 reply by Shravan Naik
Oct 31, 2017 7:55 PM
Shravan Naik

I couldn't agree more. I am in a similar situation, where I am making a career transition into Project Management. However, I am using my education to bridge this gap. As stated earlier, I feel as my education is providing me with a solid foundation. Yet, my experience in leading people and managing work has given me the "soft skills" to apply my education.

As an instructor on the PMI processes, PRINCE2 insights and Agile methods, for me the key is to give the students a project to implement. They get some of that real life experiences, including the bumps and bruises we all have had, but more importantly they have something to reference and discuss during the interview process. "Book smarts" will only take you so far. You can't swim unless you jump into the deep end of the pool.

I have met many professors/instructors who lost touch with the real life. They read books and teach the framework, having very little actual/actual experience to share with the students.
Learning theory is like getting your driver license. Passing the examination does not mean that you are a good driver. Only because one takes a course, there shouldn't be any expectations that one will be able to apply what they learned in that course from day 1 - it takes practice
My greatest leanings did not come from books or from projects that went well, but rather from the ones with challenges.

Agree with the sentiment. I learned to dock a boat not by watching videos but by doing it. PMs need to deal with real-life problems and recognize that problems don't come at them neatly bundled and tied with a pretty bow.

Please let me first address the term "academics". This is a sweepingly generalized term that has several connotations in it. Having been a PM practitioner for over 30 years, and having been an "academic"/Professor for over 15 years, I can speak to both. Pure academics have tremendous book knowledge but, lack any real practical experience. Those folks are the ones that I believe Fazal refers to. However, there are a great many academics who possess a great deal of practical knowledge and experience. These are the faculty members who bring the most "relevance" into their classrooms. They are in touch with the realities of PM work and try to convey those realities to their students. These faculty members also stay in constant contact with business leaders and Project Managers and involve them in Advisory roles for the content of their courses. So, while it is difficult to achieve, not all "academics" are out of touch, they just have to work at it.

Since my point of view this gap normal, indeed we have it in all fields, the know-how you get it on the battle field, think in a surgeon, or a pilot, even a diver, you need to live a real experience applying all knowledge you get it, getting feedback from yourself, your colleagues and your boss, just in this way we learn and improve. That´s why i think volunteers program is a good oportunity to learn in a "safe" enviroment without tears.
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