Project Practitioners > How do you become a world-class manager of projects?

How do you become a world-class manager of projects?

By Cinda Voegtli

In The World Class Project Manager – A Professional Development Guide, Robert Wysocki, James Lewis, and Doug DeCarlo provide a very useful background on the role and career of "project manager" - and what we need to know and be able to do in order to be truly world-class at it.  

I love this book because it covers career-critical subjects in a meaty and real-world way while staying easy-to-read and easy-to-reference later.   It's not new - but it’s still one I keep handy on my bookshelf because much of the advice is timeless.  I believe it has a lot of great perspective, advice, and "tools" for helping PMs (whether titled or not) chart a course for their personal development and their careers.  So my intent with this review is give you a quick overview from my own perspective, to help you decide if it could be helpful to your own career exploration and development.

NOTE:  This book has useful aspects for both project neophytes and experienced PMs alike.  The material up front is best for someone thinking about becoming a project manager in some form (or who is being thrown into it!).  The detailed skills checklists in the book should have value for even very experienced PMs.  And the insights on different types of projects and project managers should be insightful to all.

The authors' overall philosophy and therefore purpose in writing this book are summarized nicely by a quote near the end of the first chapter:

 "Most important of all we ask you to remember the one simple fact in becoming a successful professional: Your company owns your job, but you own your career; don't ever default that overship to your company."

Here's my quick overview of the contents - which shows the balance between depth and breadth I like so much - including treatment of aspects that are not always covered in such books.

After the Chapter 1 introduction to the book, Chapter 2 right away acknowledges the different levels or extent of "managing projects:"  part time PMs, occassional PMs, full-time PMs; how people tend to progress into PM roles from individual contributor and team lead; and the types and complexity of projects they may be asked to manage.

It quickly eases those who are newer-to-PM into the critical understanding that PMing is not just tasks such as schedules.  Chapter 3 gives a nice succinct example of different actual PM profiles and introductory words about what overall skills matter most -- including all the people aspects.

Chapter 4 dives more deeply into those possible career progressions and project types:  What do you need to know about project management at each level and for projects of different complexity?   And that includes not only specific skills, but the judgment and maturity a PM needs to have to manage such projects effectively.  Those Chapter 4 discussions are used to introduce detailed checklists for personal assessment of a wide range of competencies - business, personal, communication, etc. 

Chapter 5 then addresses understanding “who you are” in terms of personality and strengths to help determine what type of project manager you would actually enjoy being. It includes brief introductions to some different assessment models for understanding yourself.

Chapter 6 covers the organizational environment you have to be a PM within - how functional groups and teams are structured, and how those aspects of WHERE you are doing your job affect both your projects and your career development.

Chapter 7 by Doug DeCarlo provides a practical look at the challenges a PM is likely to face and advice ffor the mindset and actions needed to handle them.  These challenges help bring to life how all the various competences get used in teh real world. 

Chapter 8 steps back and provides advice on how to take charge of your career by creating a professional development plan for yourself. It touches on mentors, developing influence, handling politics, and more.

Finally, Chapter 9 addresses PM development from the organizational perspective. What can a company do to best hire, development and support world-class project managers?

Overall I really appreciate that this book provides a career-minded view of project management in a way that is:

  • a unique multi-faceted treatment -- quick project management intro, role overview with meaty skills checklists, plus personal considerations and organizational aspects
  • thorough but not overwhelming; detailed enough but still highly readable
  • personally usable for some self assessment and development planning

And finally - it's not a one-size-fits-all treatment of project management careers.  It explains and provides advice for the actual variety of PM roles and types of projects, from smaller/shorter/simpler to large/long/complex.  To me it is therefore a valuable reference for the full audience of "people managing projects" out there.

Now that we've set the stage with a book overview, I've posted a follow-on Part 2 that dives into the wide array of competencies that the authors believe we need in order to be world class. 

(Then early the following week I'll post a Part 3, on the squishy stuff of our maturity, judgment, and adaptability, the other major areas that are required to be a world class PM. So check back!)

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