On Tuesday 8 December, we were part of a Twitterview with Ben Snyder from Systemation.  We thumbed our way through a discussion on where project management stands today and offered some prognostications (i.e., guesses) about the future of the sport.

Here's a little bit that you need to know about Systemation:

Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that optimizes the performance of individuals and organizations by instilling practical, project-related processes and techniques across the enterprise. With unparalleled expertise in project management, business analysis and agile development, we help transform the way people perform to maximize overall businesses success.

Our best-in-class services portfolio includes a broad range of measurable, observable and reliable performance improvement learning solutions, including individual assessments, workshops, certificate programs, coaching and post-training support. And unlike most other training companies that provide highly theoretical advice, Systemation provides only practical, immediately-usable learning solutions that get desired business results!

Systemation ran this Twitterview using the hashtag #proj1.  Here is the content of the interview.

@_Systemation_: Welcome everyone to Systemation's twitterview. You can choose to just sit back and take it all in or you can participate by commenting on the discussion using the hash tag #proj1. Wil, thanks for joining us today to discuss the topic of project management: Past Present and Future.

@wil_wsi: I've been looking forward to it, Ben.

1.       @_Systemation_: Let's get started. What are the biggest changes in the field of project management over the last 10 years?

·         @wil_wsi: I see 3 things. First is wide area collaboration (virtualization). The skills a project needs can be anywhere now.

·         Second is the delineation of PM and its relationship to other disciplines like change mgmt. What was once intuitive is now modelled.

·         Third is technology advances. We can now achieve project success (or failure) in record time.

·         @_Systemation_: Oh, that's great news

2.       @_Systemation_: What has stayed constant in the field over the last 10 years?

·         @wil_wsi: Inputs for project success are the same as ever. Clarity of goals/requirements and stakeholder involvement.

·         The balance of skills a PM needs for success is also unchanged, as is the challenge in assessing this balance when choosing PMs.

·         Technical skills are still the main criteria many orgs use to appoint PMs while behavioral competencies go unassessed.

·         An excess of technical skill is a redundancy when considering the whole project team. Breaking out of this selection error is hard.

3.       @_Systemation_: How much influence has technology had on the practice of project management?

·         @wil_wsi: Absolute rocket fuel for PMs with strong general and interpersonal mgmt skills … but you do need the rocket.

·         The technology provides the collaborative vehicle. The will and ability to collaborate drives the success.

·         I will always choose the PM who understands and likes people over the one who can make their iPhone sing.

·         By the way, I know how to make an iPhone sing.

·         @_Systemation_: So you have an app for that.

·         @wil_wsi: Yes, off key ... but yes.

4.       @_Systemation_: Was there anything special about the last revision of the PMBOK?

·         @wil_wsi: Each iteration defines PM better. Processes integrate well for a precise end-to-end description of the discipline.

·         I like that processes are more action-oriented now (eg verify scope) and the big picture stuff at the beginning is getting better.

·         As PMBOK evolves, it becomes easier for organizations to devise simple companion methodologies to apply the discipline.

·         The process diagrams still give me sharp pain behind my eyes though, only more so now. I am just not sure how (or who) they help.

5.       @_Systemation_: What will be the influence of PMI in the future as compared to the past?

·         @wil_wsi: PMI needs to be less like Mensa and more like the NHL … not the money side, but the hockey side.

·         The NHL is a playground for hockey royalty, but it also connects the elite players to the next generation - providing inspiration.

·         Up to now, the stars of the project management world have spun off in their own orbit – drifting further from the practicing PM.

·         PMI can side with elitists at the expense of its influence, or it can embrace and inspire the everyday PM for grass roots impact.

·         I honestly do not know which way it will go.

·         @_Systemation_: Let's hope it's the latter.

6.       @_Systemation_: Will the CAPM, PgMP, and other PMI certifications ever be as valued as the PMP?

·         @wil_wsi: Valued by who? HR? Credentialing has a good and evil side to it.

·         PMP is most widely used as a sorting mechanism for candidates. Thus it is primarily a barrier to entry.

·         PM credentials do have value in that they help develop a common language for mgmt concepts.

·         So, CAPM as a vehicle for learning … sure! PgPM as proof of high-end PgmMgmt skills … not a chance.

7.       @_Systemation_: How much better have companies gotten at managing projects in the last decade?

·         @wil_wsi: Progress has been painfully slow. Companies keep falling into the knowing-doing gap.

·         They invest in training so that they *know* project management. But they struggle with the heavy lifting that it takes to *do* PM.

·         Best improvements I have seen came when PM capability was developed with an integrated training and coaching program.

·         Least effective is launching a PMO to ram a governance model through the org. I still marvel at how bad this approach is.

8.       @_Systemation_: What is the biggest obstacle organizations have to overcome in order to mature in project management?

·         @wil_wsi: Ironically, it is themselves, or more specifically, their own girth. Sounds a little Dilbertesque but it is true!

·         Small organizations have great potential, but often struggle for resources to support the evolution of a PM strategy.

·         Large organizations often try to eat the whole elephant at once. They roll out a massive framework with unproven value in 1 shot.

·         Or better yet, they buy a tool with an operational strategy (which is what PM is) built in. Have not seen that work yet.

·         It is like wanting a family, so you recruit a teenager. Maturation in anything is a process, not an event.

·         @_Systemation_: Not many people in upper management like that statement. Oh well. 

9.       @_Systemation_: Are people new to the role of project manager coming into the position more or less prepared for the job than before?

·         @wil_wsi: New people are pulled in opposite directions and thus less prepared. PM needs a longer view for effective decisions.

·         Cause and effect are often separated by long delays. Mistakes made at the start may not show a negative impact until the end.

·         However, the work world is not reflective right now. Peter Nicholson says in being information rich we have become attention poor.

·         Learning system dynamic skills for sound project decisions will be difficult. It runs against the grain of current behaviour.

10.   @_Systemation_: What challenges will this generation of project managers most likely face?

·         @wil_wsi: This sounds harsh, but if you are selected to manage projects, it is probably for the wrong reasons.

·         It is not a problem if you are aware of it. The easy to measure technical skills or credentials will get you in the door.

·         But your success will depend on an entirely different set of competencies that you may or may not have developed yet.

·         Skills in general mgmt, communication, leadership, influence, and systems thinking will shape your success.

·         Even so, it will be a fun ride.

·         @_Systemation_: I agree.


@_Systemation_: That's all the questions I have. Wil, thanks for enlightening us. I hope everyone enjoyed the discussion. Good bye for now.

@wil_wsi: Thanks for the opportunity, Ben. This was fun. Cheers!