Project Management Career Paths

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One thing that companies can do to support competence is to nurture the people who are

In excellent mentoring, questions that the project manager might ask of the mentor include:

Is there a better way to ? What should 1 watch out for if 1 ? Isthisagoodwayto ? How do others ?

Excellent mentors often reply with explanatory answers or with questions that help the project manager see the situation more clearly, such as:

Have you considered ? Do you know how to ? What are your choices ? What do you think will happen ifyou ? What have you done in the past ?

Adapted from Diana Mekelburg, Excellent PM Mentoring, People on Projects, June 2001. Used by permission of the publisher.


Adapted from Diana Mekelburg, Excellent PM Mentoring, People on Projects, June 2001. Used by permission of the publisher.


responsible—to ensure that project managers have a clear and desirable career path that includes training, promotion criteria, recognition of achievement, and the opportunity to progress to the highest possible levels in the organization.28 Developing a career structure is essential to the development of an organization's project management capability. The career path structure serves three purposes:

1. It allows the organization to match a project manager's level of competence/experience to the difficulty and importance of a project.

2. It assures project managers that the investments they make in developing their professional skills will be rewarded.

3. It provides an incentive for people to stay with the company, because they can see a clear promotion path.29

Tables 19-2, 19-3, and 19-4 show examples of career path structures for project management, on both the leadership ("art") and technical sides ("science").

The objectives of any career development program should be to improve skills, assess an employee's readiness for advancement, define professional skill areas, create an equitable salary structure, create a positive and open environment for career discussion, ensure frequent feedback, and encourage a "change to grow" environment.

A career path includes at least three elements in order to be valuable: experiential requirements, education/training requirements (knowledge acquisition), and documentation and tracking mechanisms.

►The experiential requirements detail the types of on-the-job activities that have to be accomplished for each level in the career path. Experiential opportunities need to be coordinated with the appropriate resource manager and the human resource department in the organization. A broad range of experiences are required for future project managers. It is not possible to develop them by restricting their experiences to one function. Thus, rather than climbing the ladder up the functional silo, project managers benefit from being exposed to a number of functions, perhaps moving back to functions they have fulfilled before, but in a more senior role. One writer has labeled this "the spiral staircase" career path.30

►The education and training requirements detail the types of knowledge that are required for each rung on the career ladder. At the lower levels, these tend to be basic courses designed to provide exposure and practice to the rudimentary skills required of that level. The upper level positions require more advanced strategic or tactical types of educational experiences. These may include topics that go beyond the realm of project management into business strategy, financial, or leadership opportunities. The educational program should be targeted to the requirements identified in the career path, and be designed in a progressive nature. In other words, the training requirements of team members are prerequisites for project managers and so on.31

►Documentation mechanisms include the attainment of certificates, degrees, or other credentials that substantiate the acquisition of the desired set of skills.

The first important criterion for project manager success is the desire to be a manager in general and a project manager in particular. Many organizations force people into the position even if they are not adept at it and do not desire to become one. The step from technical specialist to project manager may be the assumed progression when there is no way to move up a technical ladder. It is better, however, if alternative upward paths exist—one through technical managership and one through project leadership. With such dual promotional ladders, technical managers can stay in their departments and become core team members responsible for the technical portions of projects. Dual ladders also allow progression through project management, but project managers must be able to motivate technical specialists to do their best work.32

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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