Project Management is a Weak Title
by Brent M. Jones
Recently I was discussing a job listing with an associate who was trying to match his skills to a job posting and was feeling a little confused by the terminology. He had worked in the software industry for several years and said that his overall skill set strongly aligned with his past firm’s focus on client connections ensuring data was dealt with in a timely way. His job title was “Project Manager” and he felt it was a problem for him to use that title in finding like jobs.
It seems like the business vernacular tied to this job title would have common threads, but they just didn’t connect to what he had done. One posting job posting said the position would “utilize established project and program methodology to develop project plans for assigned projects”. Other listings said that the positions would “ensure adherence to quality standards, reviews project deliverables, and partner with managers to evaluate, strategize and evaluate creative project process.”
Even if I had understood what my associate had done in his prior work, aligning his past employer’s client connections job descriptions to the job posting just left us confused. I looked at the job search platform, Indeed, on the internet and typed in “Project Manager”. The site told me that they had 36,000 + jobs with that title. Managers in software development, engineering, landscaping, aerospace, patient assistance, construction and many more had open positions with this title.
As my associate and I lamented about the confusion, he showed me a book he had bought hoping to find better answers on where he should look to find the best job options for himself. The book was “Bare Bones Project Management, What you can’t not do, by Bob Lewis” so I decided to read it and even post it on my book review site if it offered some useful answers.
It was clear from the book that the term Project Manager was very generic. It has no industry certification and was a process the was tied differently to the skills needed for various jobs. Searching for this job was going to have to be tied to skills. The book did offer some helpful items.
Lewis tells us in his book that the word project is intended to mean a “collection of tasks, involving multiple individuals, organized to deliver well-defined products within a defined period of time.” He refers to what these results are as “deliverables” and what starts falling into place is the unique vernacular or “project parlance” that is part of being a Project Manager. The words that are of commonly used in project management are important if this function is to have stand-alone credibility in the organization. It just might be that the unique vernacular is why the job title seems to be creditable.
Stakeholders are those very important people in the organization that have an interest in the project and who the Project Manager will likely depend on for success. The projects metrics plan will be is very important and is about knowing what measurements will be used to determine a project’s success. You will likely be tasked with developing and using plans for communication, culture change, training and employee involvement.
The book has 7 chapters: Sponsorship and Governance, Understand the Project, Project Staffing- Defining “We”, Planning the Work, The Launch, Managing the Project and Declaring Victory.
In the first chapter the question “What’s the Point” of a project is answered telling us: “The point of any business project is to deliver business improvement of some kind - a different, better way of doing things” This is summed up saying “Business can improve in just three ways- they can increase revenue, reduce cost, or mitigate risk. Everything else is technique.
Lewis said that anyone who has volunteered, asked, or been hired to lead a project as a Project Manager, despite having no training or experience in the discipline can benefit from the book. He points out that most businesses have lots of great ideas, even more than they have executives who are willing to commit to the value of what may become a project. A project deserves a sponsor and stakeholders before it is assigned a project manager. A project can succeed without a sponsor, but the odds are much less than when it has a sponsor who has the authority to authorize more time and resources and who can declare success.
Good projects will come to an end. Of equal importance is what will you do when it is done.