Moving on Up in Project Management

February 9, 2009 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Ask the Hut

Moving on Up in Project Management
By Ray W. Frohnhoefer

A recent PM Hut reader asked “I’m a PM at a small web developing company, but as soon as I can I want to work at a multinational company. I hope you can help me with that.” The rest of the message asked three specific questions and also implied this was a move from a small to large environment. Having worked on both US coasts for companies as large as General Electric and as small as one employee, I thought I might be able to shed some light on this in general, as well as address the three questions. I broke the general case down into five specific categories:

Portable Skill Set

As a Project Manager, if you are adhering to the internationally recognized best practices of the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK GuideĀ®, you have developed a highly portable skill set which can be used across industries and companies. There is a bit of a “catch” — the recent Value of Project Management study by the University of Athabasca found there is not one path to project management. As you embark on a new position, there will be a learning period for “local rules”. Take the time to find out how they do project management, so you can identify areas where you can immediately contribute and others which might require some ramp up. If you don’t have this skill set, visit Learn About PMI Certifications to get started.

Scalable

I often suggest to my project management students that they keep the “bureaucracy” proportional to the company size. A small one month project doesn’t require a 50-page project plan and daily status reports. However a 10 year, global project may require something larger. Make sure the supporting tools and techniques you use in your management of projects scale to meet the circumstances.

Maturity of Project Management Practice

I’ve observed that larger companies often have more mature practices. This can be due to longevity (GE has been around for more than a century and started out small), funding for development, business needs, or continuous improvement, among other things. Reviewing tools such as Kerzner’s Project Management Maturity Model and PMI’s Organizational Project Management Maturity Model will help you in understanding your environment.

Cultural Sensitivity

For a multi-national company, be aware of how the people you will be dealing with think about time, costs, and doing business as this will impact your ability to control project costs and risks. Australians frequently go on summer “holiday”. Some European cultures are know for long afternoon breaks, but late nights — you may be able to catch someone in the office at 8pm in their time zone. In Japan, silence is usually not consensus, but disagreement or deferment to a higher authority. I don’t want to “generalize” anyone, but this should give you a few things to think about and explore.

Support Systems

Larger environments tend to have more support systems in place. Find out how you can leverage these to your advantage. Very small companies, for example, are usually difficult to introduce to change control and earned value management. Larger companies may have the basics in place and you will be able to contribute to their continuous improvement.

Now let’s take a look at the three specific questions this reader had:

1. Does the IT PM need to have a programming knowledge?

In general, to be a strong project leader, you should strive to become a subject matter expert. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write code in a specific programming language, but you should develop general skills such as understanding the software project life cycle, how to evaluate and select programmers and programming environments, and other business and industry-related skills. You will be called upon to lead the discussions of estimates and plans, so it would help to have a general knowledge of how the pieces fit and how the estimates are derived.

2. None of us starts his/her career as a PM, so what are the previous positions I need to have before I become a PM at a multinational company?

There is no one path — any path that helps you acquire the management and people skills to be a project manager will do. Large companies have management training programs, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend some classes at GE’s famous Crotonville management training facility. Find out if such a program is available to you, or investigate PM training or degrees at your local university. PMI members also have access to the PMI Career Framework.

3. What kind of skill do I need to get into that previous position?

Again, no one set answer, however I’ve always found a strong desire, development of personal goals, and continued demonstration of mastery of related skills to be a good path.

Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP is the Director of the Project Support Office at EDmin as well as a consultant, speaker, writer, educator, and mentor on Project Management. Ray is also the Component Mentor for PMI Region 7 (Southwest North America), a Past President of PMI, San Diego Chapter, Inc., and an adjunct faculty member at three San Diego universities. You can find out more about his professional roles at http://www.edmin.com/company/index.cfm?function=showBioDetail&id=80 and through his blog, Tales from the Project Notebook, at http://projectnotebook.blogspot.com.

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13 people have left comments

my brief bacKground… started with Project2 and Cost Processor 2 decades ago. Now using Maximo - but in a role of Better/Best Practices consultant.
I frequently see the EAM (software vendor) focus on capital project (CIP and construction) mgmt to be one of CREATING a WORK ORDER for each asset installation.
They also give very little attention to WBS concepts - if at all. They seem to not understand or emphasize relationship of all 3 elements: WBS, schedule detail and EAM work orders. Using There are seveal ways to setup budget, capture actuals and forecast ETC.
Back in the day (CSCSC spec) all large projects had this type of cost management style. It seems like this knowledge has been forgotten.

Therein the EAM base product does not provide this capability. I end up designing the EAM so that you can perform WBS style proejct cost tracking all within the same system/package. I see alot of well meaning PM’s however downloading data to Excel or Access and end up storing data in two places.

My question is:

[his is not a software question per se] But do you think the EAM/ERP vendors will someday recognize the importance of WBS design in terms of scope management and “the first step” to creating a schedule?

w/br
j.r.

John Reeve wrote on February 27, 2009 - 12:21 pm | Visit Link

Let me clean-up my entry above.

My brief background: started with Project2 and Cost Processor 2 decades ago. Now using Maximo EAM software - but in a role of Better/Best Practices consultant.
I frequently see the EAM vendor interpret capital project (CIP and construction) mgmt to be one of CREATING a WORK ORDER for each asset installation.
They also give very little attention to WBS concepts - if at all.
They seem to not understand or emphasize relationship of all 3 elements: WBS, schedule detail and EAM work orders.
Noting that there are several ways to setup budget, capture actuals and forecast ETC, you should always have a WBS.
Back in the day (CSCSC spec) all large projects had this type of cost management style. It seems like this knowledge has been forgotten.
And in the news you see major project cost overruns (ie potus helicopter)

The standard EAM base product does not provide this capability. Therein I end up designing the EAM so that you can perform WBS style project cost tracking all within the same system/package.
I also see alot of well meaning PM’s continuing to download data (from EAM) to Excel or Access and end up storing project data in two places.

My question is:

[his is not a software question per se] Do you think the EAM/ERP vendors will someday recognize the importance of WBS design in terms of scope management and “the first step” to creating a schedule?

w/br
j.r.

John Reeve wrote on February 27, 2009 - 12:37 pm | Visit Link

Hi there
Im a student of industrial engineering
i want to get my master degree in Project management field , can you name me some top universities who offers Ms degree for PM ( Not Online courses )

Thanks in advance
Shervin.Kh

Shervin wrote on March 17, 2009 - 12:56 am | Visit Link

Hi. i want to know wat the following means. The effectiveness of project management to understand the risks and to establish an effective project management environment.

Roy wrote on April 1, 2009 - 5:54 pm | Visit Link

I have recently applied for the PMP exam.I have this concern abt my education.I did BSC in 1997 and then it used to be 2yr program in my home country.Will this cause any problem with the audit. I have submitted 4950 project management hours ,which I can easily justify.Its just my education abt which I am little concerned.
Hope you will be able to help me.
Regards
Nida

nida wrote on April 2, 2009 - 2:29 am | Visit Link

Shervin asked about universities with project management degrees. Perhaps the oldest and most respected is the MSPM from George Washington University (http://business.gwu.edu/grad/mspm/index.html). Northwestern University and New Jersey Institute of Technology offer similar programs. You might also consider some of the programs which include a project management component or minor. An example is the MBA in Executive Leadership offered by the University of San Diego.

Ray Frohnhoefer wrote on April 2, 2009 - 9:18 pm | Visit Link

Nida asked about the ability to use the degree program from another country. If the degree is recognized as a Bachelor’s degree or better in the US, I wouldn’t be too concerned. If you still have a question, please drop me an email with more details (country, program, university, etc.) and I will ask. My email is sdcapmp@aol.com.

Ray Frohnhoefer wrote on April 2, 2009 - 9:22 pm | Visit Link

Hello, is there any article in PM hut on calculating person-months for a project ?

Thanks.

Preeti Patil wrote on May 1, 2009 - 11:29 am | Visit Link

I have recently been promoted to Quality Engineer. I have had no formalized training in PM, but am now expected to lead projects with LEAN manufacturing in mind. Is there a place I can go to help me learn how to lead a successful project? I have been reading a lot on the PM Hut, but is there some way I can narrow down my focus?

Julie Derby wrote on May 14, 2010 - 3:32 pm | Visit Link

Hi,

I am currently working as PMO in a MNC.I have around 7 years of experience in Project Management and my experiences are in financial services, telecom and IT project Management sectors. I am curious and would like to know the way to become a project Manager in any of the field.

Please advice

Regards,
Tahir

Tahir Shah wrote on January 27, 2012 - 2:13 am | Visit Link

Hi Tahir,

I don’t understand, you have 7 years of PM experience and you’re a PMO AND you want to know how to become a project manager?

Please explain…

PM Hut wrote on January 27, 2012 - 10:06 am | Visit Link

Hi Julie,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. You may want to check the project management process on PM Hut, it is available here: http://www.pmhut.com/project-management-process

PM Hut wrote on January 27, 2012 - 10:08 am | Visit Link

Hello, I have a BSBA with an emphasis in Project Management from City University. Iobtainedmydegreein 2010. I have been unable to get ajobin the field since obtaining my degree. I have 20 years experience in electronics from my time in the Navy but employers do not seem to think that would give me any experience working with projects. I am thinking of going back to school and was hoping to hear which institution would be the best for me to attend. I was thinking of something along the lines of a Construction Terminology certificate or degree. I would appreciate any insight you can offer me.
Thanks, Karen

Karen wrote on June 13, 2013 - 9:56 am | Visit Link

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