Interview with Villanova University on project management
Here’s a posting of an interview I gave to Villanova University. In it I give the typical stuff like my background, education and how I got started in project management. I was very honored to give the interview on behalf of Villanova University.
One part of the interview I’d like to discuss is the section where I was asked what I thought was the biggest misconception of the profession which I state:
I think the biggest misconception is that you have to be a subject matter expert to lead a project successfully. In other words, you can only manage a software project if you had experience developing software. But success, in my opinion, is having a sound foundation in standards, practices and processes coupled with real world experience in managing projects.
It’s really your ability to use sound project management practices and real world experiences rather than technical knowledge that will make you a successful project manager. In fact, I would go so far as to say having too much technical knowledge will get in the way of your viewing the project from an overall business value perspective, which is the most critical view to have.
I still see arguments today where people in the field feel you need technical expertise to lead a project. Here’s a copy of a thread from PMI’s Career Cental LinkedIn group that posits this:
Regardless of the project, the PM must be familiar with it or become familiar very quickly. If the project is technical in nature, it is more likely to succeed with a PM who is familiar not only with the principles of PM but is also experienced with executing those principles and is familiar with the premise, technical or otherwise, of the project.
Many good PMs can step into a project and get up to speed even without a background in the area of the project. However, it all depends on the background and capabilities of that PM. If someone has any kind of technical/engineering background, it is usually easier for them to pick up on the basis of technical projects regardless of the subject matter. That being said, without a background in the concepts of project management or experience in managing projects, a technical expert will be challenged to succeed.
Bottom line, to me, is that familiarity with the concepts of the project or a background (like engineering for a technical project) that provides a foundation will improve the probability of success for someone with PM experience. Don’t assume that a PMP without a technical background can succeed or that a technical expert can succeed without project management experience.
This argument from R. Alan Davis is pretty balanced, and in the best possible situations the preference would be a person with strong project management skills AND technical knowledge, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d chose a person with strong PM skills over someone with strong technical skills any day.
What do you think?