Project Management Conference at Drake University

Posted by Kevin Brady on Mon 16th October 2006 at 10:29 AM, Filed in Industry News

Yesterday was an interesting day. After a hectic morning and late afternoon shooting at Bisley where I failed to achieve anything close to my average scores at 50 metres, I sat down at my desk to get involved in a telephone conference with 35 MBA Project Management students from Drake University. The invite to participate in this conference came from my good blogging buddy Timothy Johnson who regularly teaches Project Management to this enthusiastic bunch of young professionals.

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Drake University

Whilst presenting and answering questions, I could not expunge from my mind the thought that the IT project management profession is in a lot of trouble.

Wherever I go I see disrespect shown to Project Managers by Project Teams /Business Managers and Sponsors. Much of this lack of respect seems to result from disturbingly low levels of professionalism amongst IT Project Management (please read my post “Is Project Management Professionalism on the Decline”).

In Germany, mention the words “Ich bin ein Engineener” and instant respect is given to the proud holder of such a title. I have witnessed this myself, with people instantly recognising this as a tough demanding job requiring extraordinary skill. It is my dream one day to see a similar situation apply to IT Project Management which is in my opinion one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs on the planet, requiring amongst the best managers, exceptional levels of energy, intellectual capacity and social /technical skill.

Institutions like Drake University in my view represent the future.  In my earlier mentioned reference post “Is Project Management Professionalism on the Decline” I describe how experienced IT Project Managers and Programme Managers are leaving Project Management associations in their droves. I believe much of this exodus results from a failure to inject real world practical skills and experiences into their courses, with the exception of institutions like Drake University.

Very often newbie managers running their first IT projects find the Coal Face an often frightening and bewildering experience. In fact one project manager I mentored, described the difference between his project management training and real world Project Management as the equivalent of having a “frontal lobotomy”.

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He wondered whether he could ever smile and have fun in his job. I put him straight on the fun issue and explained to him how Project Management can be a fun game whether you are delivering a failure or a success. However, I admitted that there is a huge difference between the reality of IT project management and the theory. In my view the future retention of Project Management Association members and thus the professionalism of IT Project Management, hinges on Government Intervention, the provision of Chartered Qualifications and the need for Professional Bodies and training institutions to inject real world practical Project Management experiences and practices into their training programmes.

New /old hands at Project Management want to hear case studies from hardened professionals, covering the realities of Project Management and the need to improvise and overcome show stopper issues and problems. Project Managers want to know things like :-

“Why is my project plan trashed when I press the auto levelling button on MS Project?”

“How do I handle my first meeting with a Tech Architect determined to follow a development approach seemingly incongruent to the needs of the projects business case?”

I believe that places like Drake University and lecturers like Tim, represent the future shape of Project Management training, where there is a greater emphasis on the practical aspects of Project Management, combined with real world input from Project Management professionals.

If you are considering a course in Project Management, you must make sure that the trainers are experienced professional Project Managers first and qualified trainers last, with course work based around real world examples or you could be facing a “frontal lobotomy of your own”.

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