Project Practitioners > Being World Class, Part 3: PM Skills, Maturity, Judgment, and True Know-How

Being World Class, Part 3: PM Skills, Maturity, Judgment, and True Know-How

By Cinda Voegtli

This is my final installment of reviewing the book The World Class Project Manager - A Professional Development Guide.  If you missed the first two installments, see #1 here and #2 here.

One goal of the series has been to convey why I've found this classic book to be so valuable. Another is to provide enough meat to get us thinking about our own skill and maturity profiles and where we each might want to pursue further development.  And finally, I've wanted to let you know specifically the range of assessment checklists that are included so you can decide if it would be valuable to actually get the book.

This final installment covers a piece of Chapter 5 - Who Am I?   Most of Chapter 5 covers a range of "personality assessment" models such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator and Learning Styles Inventory to help the reader think about their own styles.   Having a brief introduction to a range of models, and some notes the authors provide on how different styles relate to the project management job, is valuable in itself and I recommend that part of the chapter as well.  

But in this post I wanted to focus on the first part of Chapter 5.  The authors provide an in-depth PM Skills Profile;  a model for how to characterize our level of true know-how in each skill; and then a mapping of those skills, and needed maturity level in each one, to being able to manage different complexities of projects.

Why am I focusing here?  Because this scale provides a good way to think about our progression from "book learning" to true PM maturity in different critical skills areas.  And because I believe that achieving levels 4 and especially level 5 on this scale, in multiple skills areas, separates the great project managers from the merely good.  Thus this scale articulates a kind of development path we can use to both assess where we each are in our maturity development and think about what could help us advance up the scale.  Here it is:  

1.0 Knowledge (I can define the skill)

2.0 Comprehension (I can explain how the skill is used)

3.0 Application (I have limited experience using the skill in simple situations)

4.0 Analysis (I have extensive experience using the skill in complex situations)

5.0 Synthesis (I can adapt the skill to other uses)

6.0 Evaluation (I am recognized as an expert in using the skill by my peers)

The authors had already laid out 4 project types and corresponding project manager types in Chapter 4. They note these again here in Chapter 5 - and then provide a 5 page table that maps their list of PM skills to each of those 4 project types - indicating what maturity level they believe we need to have reached in each area to be able to manage successfully!

Those project types are defined as:

Type IV: Simple projects. Led by a team leader.

Type III: Organizationally complex projects. Led by a project manager or senior project manager

Type II: Technically complex projects.  Led by a project manager or senior project manager.

Type I: Critical Mission Projects.  Led by a senior project manager or program manager

When I teach classes, the questions asked by both newer and more experienced PMs always reflect people trying to achieve levels 4 and 5 in maturity.  They've used PM tools and techniques in some situations.  But they haven't encountered Situation X before, and they don't yet feel comfortable that they understand the best way to apply a particular PM concept or tool to this new situation.  And often those new situations are arising because they are managing a new project TYPE! (e.g.. more complex or larger than they've managed before).

So how can we get to levels 4 and 5 in multiple skills areas, so that we are getting better and better equipped to manage whatever types of projects we want to be world class at managing?   By definition levels 4 and 5 are not something you learn from a book or a certification!  They require experiential learning - either direct learning ourselves (which is often "the hard way" :-)); or indirect learning from others that is still very "close to the work" -- i.e. situation-based learning that can be translated easily to your own similar tasks and challenges (and can thankfully often happen before you encounter the situation yourself).

So that means to me that we should be taking advantage of every opportunity we can to gain that indirect situational learning.   Every question asked, every article read to gain new insight, every knowledge-sharing session you hold internally, every practical class or webinar or professional association program attended, every lessons learned meeting or report from projects, is a way for you to work toward and enhance your level 4 and 5 maturity. The key to really benefiting from that time, though, is to keep Levels 4 and 5 in mind, listen for concrete how-to tips, and ask very specific questions.  These venues are not a time to just pick up more concepts.  They can be rich in situational knowledge if we take the initiative to think and ask with that mindset.

Of course we'll most solidly achieve levels 4 and then 5 across many PM skill areas as we gain our own experience. This is part of becoming World Class PMs -- and enjoying the confidence and competence that comes from being able to handle a wide range of gnarly PM situations and  earn incredible admiration and trust from our executives and teams as well.  But using a phrase several of us love, "We shouldn't have to live through it to learn how to do it", I do encourage us all to keep finding ways to move toward or add to our world class PM-ness through other means as well.  

I hope you've found this series helpful. And I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book if this all resonates.  As I mentioned in the first overview installment, this book is an easy read with plain language, great insights, and lots of lists you can use for thinking about your own personal development.



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