Is project management just for project managers?

Home Forums Program and Project Management Is project management just for project managers?

This topic contains 16 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Josh Nankivel 9 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #149030

    This weekend, I was cleaning out my garage and came across a short curriculum that a former employer used to teach employees the basics of project management. They weren’t delving too deep into Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) principles, but it was meaty enough that everyone could get on board with a more projectized organization.

    I’ll share more about their approach in some subsequent blog posts, but I wanted to ask GovLoop members a few questions to learn how we can better help you in terms of the types of content and conversations we facilitate:

    1. Is project management just for project managers or PMPs?

    2. Should there be separate Project Management Offices, or should cities, states and Federal agencies educate a broader swath of public sector employees in good project management principles?

    3. Has your public sector organization engaged in this kind of educational initiative? Please share…

    By the way, GovLoop member Bill Brantley created a great Guide to Project Management for Small Projects that you should be sure to check out!

    I’d also encourage you to peruse the blogs of Josh Nankivel and Cornelius Fichtner for solid project management information and insight.

  • #149062

    Josh Nankivel

    I was managing projects for years before I knew there was something called “project management” as a formal discipline or knew anything about the PMI, IPMA, or other project management organizations.

    For those of us who view ourselves as “Project Managers” or have that in our title, there are many, many more people who are managing projects in some capacity who don’t.

    Just as with any other skill, if you focus on it as an area of study and as a formal discipline, you WILL get better at it. Project management is a skill set in use by just about everyone, every day. As far as I’m concerned, it should be a standard part of the public education standards for high school, because everyone can benefit from some basic project management know-how.

  • #149060

    Henry Brown

    1. Will answer this with a question: Should Driving be limited to NASCAR drivers?…

    2. Believe that there should be a separate PM Office to deal with the really complex projects, which can often go across offices and in some cases across different agencies.

    3. Both the organization’s that I have had some serious involvement with, one of the purposes of the PM office was to provide basic training and support for the numerous project managers throughout the organization.

  • #149058

    Bill Brantley

    Absolutely not! Even if you don’t want to be a project manager, knowing the basics can help you be a great project team member.

  • #149056

    Mark Hammer

    Years ago, I had the pleasure of going to see the legendary Miles Davis, during his electro-funk period. The interplay between himself and his rhythm section (drummer, bass player) was little short of remarkable. Even though the music itself was improvisational and relatively unstructured, they were always doing EXACTLY what he needed them to be doing every single moment. Miles would play a little riff, and the drummer would hit the snare “BAP!”, as if it was simply a continuation of MIles’ riff.

    Whether it is a surgical team, a jazz quintet, or a work-unit, there are few things as sweet as a well-oiled team where each member can anticipate what the other members need before they even request it. Learning to think like your manager can often be one of the best strategies for making your workday productive and enjoyable.

  • #149054

    Josh Nankivel

    I love the driving analogy Henry, brilliant and spot on!

  • #149052

    Jay Ach

    Project management basics should be imbedded in the culture of any organization that values success over failure.

    Josh is totally on target with his observation that it should be a part of everyone’s education.

  • #149050

    Terrence Hill

    I too like the driving analogy. All of us are involved in projects, with varying roles. I agree that complex projects like lunar landings or special weapons systems need designated PMs, but all of us need to know the basics of project management for virtually everything we do. However, not everyone needs to be a PMP.

  • #149048

    Steve Cottle

    As a trumpet player, I love this Miles Davis analogy. Of the 6-7 discreet roles I’ve had working with the federal government, I can’t think of one that didn’t benefit from an understanding of the basics of project management. But when I reflect on this analogy and think about the larger team, it’s clear that projects I’ve worked on have been smoothest when team members have been able to anticipate each other’s – and our manager’s – needs. A shared understanding of project management fundamentals provides a great foundation for this.

  • #149046

    Jay Ach

    Clearly, trumpet players rule!

    (I used to play.)

  • #149044

    Jo Youngblood

    I actually coordinated just this last year a series on project management that incorporates not just PMI material but also MIT Open Courseware material as well as some other resources. The real point was to educate ourselves on project management principles, see where we are already doing some of these things and evaluate where we could do some of these things better. Although all my agency does is research (projects), I don’t think a central PMO would be appropriate. Each group within the agency has very different needs regarding the format, sponsor, stakeholders, resources, expertise, etc. Some groups are more projectized and others are a mixed matrix. A central PMO would only attempt to force a square peg into a round hole. Instead we’re utilizing a shared file system and posting templates that can be adopted and utilized across the agency. So we are centralizing material and information (goes more towards those knowledge assets under Organizations Process Assets if you’re following along with PMI), but we’re not suggesting these items to be policy because they don’t work for everyone. Also, some projects are too small in budget to effectively engage in formalized project management practices. Sometimes you take the methodology for the benefits it gives you and sometimes you leave it behind because of the cost in executing the methodology.

  • #149042

    1. No, it is not just for PMPs. The project manager is usually managing a team of associates and subordinates. Staff has to know and understand the impacts of their participation in a project and manage their share or the whole team loses ground and credability in the process. The timeline slips. Training all staff should help smaller projects complete faster and keep larger projects from slipping as much.

    2. No, there should not be separate PM offices. Projects happen in all departments and an education in good project management principles makes progress and change happen. People are more engaged in the change because they understand it better and how they fit in making the process better.

    3. We do have a mandate to have more project managers with formal training. I see a lot of people go to training and come back and go about their business as usual. A few take it to heart, but they can’t buck the trend. Too many have been around for many more years than I have in public sector. The comment I hear most often is, “and this too shall pass.” So many mandates are related to politics which change on a regular basis.

    I took the PMBOK training some years ago, based on that mandate. I was working in a data management position while they put together a position description for the position. I thought it was great and wished I had that training for the many projects I had been involved in. I think if it were applied by those who are taking the training, fewer projects would stall out. Some seem to go on for years. Makes me crazy to watch. I tend to be task oriented and need to see an end. Too many people don’t seem to share that.

    In private sector, if your company spends money sending you to training it had better be used. I never received formal training when I was involved in systems development. I remember learning gant charts and teaching staff that was assigned to my part of the project, how we fit into the program and what I expected from them to help our team achieve our goals.

  • #149040

    Paul Jerram, PMP

    I’ll respond to the first two questions only, as I work for Management Concepts, a premier provider of training and professional services to the federal government, located in Tysons Corner, VA, and not in the public sector.

    Question 1: many of us know, from firsthand experience, the term “The Accidental Project Manager”, and I definitely, in years past (pre-certification and experience but already with the “scars”), qualified for that title. Also, many people routinely handle the duties of a project manager without necessarily having the formal education or the PMP credential, for example. It also really helps for project team members to have a good grasp of what “project management is all about”. We at Management Concepts designed a PM training product around that very topic and belief; “Project Management Essentials for Team Members”. Check it out at:

    Reading down some of the other contributions here, I also completely agree that “practice makes perfect” (or at least, better and more confident). The more you focus on the discipline, use the techniques and learn from your mistakes, the greater the chance that you will improve. It does get to the point though when it’s beneficial to ask yourself the question: is it time for me to take advantage of some of the certification opportunities that are out there? They can demonstrate your capabilities in the skill, and in the right setting, cause your organization to have confidence in your capabilities, as evidenced by your certification and continued contributions to projects.

    Question 2: Project or Program Management Offices can have a great role to play in organizations on many levels. However, I think there’s a case to be made to instill greater numbers of people with project management skills, as more people become engaged in the process and more readily understand how they fit into things and how they can become key individual contributors.

  • #149038

    Eric Melton


  • #149036

    Eric Melton

    I’m an active member of our local PMI chapter, and have heard seminar presentations from everything from zoo managers, to city managers, to a PM for a virtual border fence project. What that has shown me is, if you can master all the areas to manage a project, you can run your own business, team, department, city, division… etc. It teaches attention to detail, focus on scope, time, budget, risk… you can even apply the PM principles in daily life.

    Broader PM education is definitely a good idea.

    My org is doing more… and we need to teach the folks who have been doing projects for years the actual correct methodologies (self included), as many of us have just been doing it by default and drive.

  • #149034

    Can you tell me more, Eric, about how your organization is training up people in basic project management skills?

    Actually, that question is open to any of the respondents on this thread!

  • #149032

    #jealous #extremelyjealous


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