There has been a lot of talk and discussion about how the project management discipline has changed over the years and the relevance of the project management role in today’s context. A significant percentage of these discussions give an impression that the project management role may not survive the ongoing evolution and technology dominance. As a someone who has been working with project managers extensively, I think would like to completely put those notions to rest with this blog.
Project management is glorified coordination
Ask a novice to describe the project management role and 9 out of 10 will say coordination. There is no denying that the role has a coordination element, but to call it glorified coordination is partly ignorance and partly perception. Let me explain; A typical project goes through 4 to 5 phases, each distinctly different from the other, involving multiple stakeholders, cross-functional teams and customers.
Each phase is distinct in nature and requires specific skills such as requirement analysis, planning, technical skills, leadership, reviews and data analysis, to name a few. What’s surprising to me is that coordination doesn’t even feature as a required skill in the project lifecycle. How can project management then be perceived as glorified coordination? To me, it’s a purely a case of half knowledge. To understand how extensive project management actually is, I recommend the PMBOK Guide.
Project management role hampers progression
Actually, this could apply for any role if you limit yourself to the scope of the role. To bust this myth one needs to understand the significance of the project management role in organizational context. Let’s take a typical IT company as an example. In terms of career progression, you could either take the individual contributor path and reach a subject matter expert level or take the management path and attain a senior management position. If you do choose the management path, then the project management role is not a roadblock but an enabler. Without excelling at project management, one would be at sea with aspects such as planning, technical expertise, data analysis, customer management and leadership. If you flip the view, project management is actually the stepping stone to leadership. You probably wouldn’t make a great leader without excelling at project manager.
Exposure is limited
This is something I hear commonly from aspiring professionals. In the 2 points above I have talked about how extensive the scope of a project management role is. It is actually one of the most well rounded and defined roles in an organization.
Professionals should look at the project management role, not as a hurdle but an opportunity to acquire the technical and soft skills to progress further.
Project management tools will replace project managers
And now to most widely believed myth. With a rise in technology adoption, there is both nervousness as well as speculation about the relevance of various organizational roles. I would say there is a lack of understanding of the role of technology in such domains. Technology is an enabler, not a substitute. Project Management tools enable better planning, monitoring, measurement, collaboration, and reporting. To think that technology can replace intellect, decision-making, leadership and instinct is primitive at best. At the pace at which project management is evolving, it is very important to keep an open mind about technology, master it and use it to your advantage.
Evolution by nature brings some amount of resistance with it. Nobody likes change. To be apprehensive about change is normal but to build negative perception based on apprehension is unhealthy. Yes, project management has evolved and will continue to do so. If you are using all this speculation to land a project management role with an expectation that it will be transactional, then you are in for surprises. Pursue it if you are passionate about adding value to yourself, to your people, to your projects and to your organization. The project manager of the future is a lot more than just a coordinator, that’s for certain (read: The Future Proof Project Manager).
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