The 10 Key Capabilities of Next-Generation Project Managers

Filed under Career | Posted by PMStudent

I came across this interesting article by Meridith Levinson today on CIO.com (thanks to @rseres on Twitter for tweeting it!).

by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

While I like the focus on Agile and Lean concepts in software development becoming more prevalent (and I think it’s true), I think Meridith is putting up a fairly large straw-man argument in this article.? Perhaps it comes from the study itself by Mary Gerush; I’m not entirely sure since I didn’t pay the $499 price tag to read the study.

I don’t dispute the capabilities they found to be important for new project managers.? Not at all.? They are good qualities for project managers.? I also agree with the opinion that deterministic frameworks in matrix organizations can be used in a “command and control” manner.? That doesn’t mean all of them are, or that they should be.? I love agile and lean, and agile in particular requires facilitation of the team and not this authoritarian “do what I tell you” approach.

What I find interesting is how broad-brush comparisons are made and implications that with “old school” project management they weren’t possible or present at all.? For instance, I believe the following statement is coming from Meridith, not quoted from Gerush:

“Instead of defining roles and making sure team members are following project management processes and procedures to a T, next generation project managers need to focus on improving collaboration and removing obstacles and distractions so that project team members can get their work done on time and on budget.”

When I read this, it makes it sound like our only role as project managers before was policy compliance control.?? I can tell you that “improving collaboration and removing obstacles and distractions” is something that any project managers worth their salt have always focused on.? This isn’t a change.

Here’s another one:

“Next generation project managers see their primary role as delivering value to the company?not just completing projects on time and on budget.”

If “old school” project managers didn’t see their primary role as delivering business value, then something was wrong.? This has always been the goal of doing projects, as far as I’m aware.? Why else would you do them?

The mental picture I get from Meridith is something like this:

  • Past/Current:? a black-and-white image of theory-X managers with black-rimmed glasses puffing on cigars and shouting orders to their teams.
  • Next-Gen: touchy-feely theory-Y managers who sing “we don’t have to document; we’re going agile, and agile will fix everything!”

Perhaps it’s just me who sees a caricature of project management being presented?

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