A controversial debate : What to look for in a Project Manager

In times of so many methodologies, PM schools and certifications, we jumped into an article about what to look for when hiring a Project Manager.

The article was written by the ProjectTimes.com and it basicaly resumes the discussion in 5 specific questions :

  1. If We Provide You With A New Project, What Will Be Your Approach To Manage It, And How Would You Present Results?

  2. What If We Assign You A Complex Project That Is Already Running Behind Schedule? How Would You Manage It And Bring It Back On Track?

  3. What’s The Nature Of The Communication Style With Your Team Members?

  4. Share Your Experience Of When You Were Responsible For Training Others On Any One Aspect Of Project Management?

  5. Share Your Experience Of When You Were Responsible For Training Others On Any One Aspect Of Project Management?

Even though it brings an interesting approach, we then started thinking not only about the answers, but mainly about who is listening to the answers.

Yes! We said "mainly"! Because each company has a culture, and it changes everything!

Even though a good experience and the project management best practices could guide the candidate to a right answer, the culture of a company can turn the perception of this answer to another direction and judge the candidate inadequate.

It then brings us to a deeper reflection : what does successful project management mean, if not meeting the company's interests, even if those interests have nothing to do with meeting budget, deadline, scope, or any PMI or IPMA best practices?

We then immediatly started thinking about the main oldest projects in the world.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Great Pyramid of Giza
All three of Giza's famed pyramids and their elaborate burial complexes were built during a frenetic period of construction, from roughly 2550 to 2490 B.C

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken and holds the distinction of being the longest as well. It's building began in about 700 - 400 B.C and was completed in about A.D 1600, which means it took more than 2,000 years to be ready!

No one can deny the amazing "results", in terms of delivery, of these projects.

And while the environment and many variables are unknown, we inevitably agree that those are incredible successful projects.

So besides from the company's culture, something of extreme importance is the environment, the scenario and the circumstances that permeate the project.

Driven by the urge to decipher this topic, we interviewed some project managers from various companies and diverse segments. Among the most varied statements, some caught our attention:

PM1 : We had 12 months to execute the project, which was clearly quite audacious. We set priorities and moved towards them. After 4 months we began to look at the risks and although the project's headlight was still green, there was a strong trend of quickly turning into red. We then reported it as yellow with the appropriate risks and details. Result: We were massacred by senior management who said we were giving the wrong picture of project failure.

PM2 : We had 30 major developments to be done, as demanded by the business team. We estimated each of the developments in effort and timeframe. In a meeting with senior management, we were asked to group the developments in order to reduce their quantity. It was clear that there was no synergy between them and so such a grouping would not bring any gain of time. They explained that it was just about mirroring a less complex scenario for the company board.

PM3 : We were in a very complex project with a carefully selected team for its success. The professionals of this team were divided between the tasks of the project and the tasks of their core areas, with the proper priorities agreed with their leaders. We were nearing the deadline for project completion and project activities could not be performed because they lost priority to core area activities. No additional resources were given to us, no additional deadlines were agreed, and when asked, the senior management would tell us, "That's the way it is. The priority here changes all the time".

Conclusion : More important than hiring the best project manager should be preparing the company for the best practices of a project management and presenting the candidate with the company's culture, whatever it may be.



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