It’s been interesting seeing project management develop over the years – so many more people want to get into a project management role yet how to do that has led to mixed and confusing messages. I often spend time explaining the difference between formal and informal project management – and here, in this guest article from Michelle Symonds – she does a good job of explaining that do:
We’ve all been there, I imagine, a social event, business conference or meeting with new people – there’s an exchange of chat and information as everyone gets to know each other (at least superficially) and you talk about what you do for a living.
It’s a challenging and exciting job and you enjoy it but project management can be hard to quantify to people in different industries. After all there will be people who will tell you that they have project managed the extension on their home (or is it just me who hangs out with people obsessed by improving their homes?)
It can seem churlish to try to explain that “professional” project management is somewhat different from managing an extension to a house because, well, in principle it maybe isn’t that different.
After all that training and CPD you have done, the qualifications and certifications you worked so hard to achieve, other people outside the profession don’t get the difference between being a professional project manager and simply managing everyday projects in your life.
What Makes a Project Manager a Professional Project Manager?
So let’s have a look at what makes a project manager a professional. One of the most significant differences between a professional career in project management and managing projects is the approach to learning from best practice.
If you build an extension on your home, the chances are you have not done it before and are unlikely to do it again (or, at least, not for many years). So if you get things wrong, run over time and budget there is no impetus to document and learn from your mistakes; no need to develop processes that minimise the risks of not completing the project successfully or spending too much money or too much time achieving the desired outcome.
Professional project managers on the other hand, will use a well-developed set of best practice processes to manage and control their projects so that, in theory, they proceed much more smoothly. They have a process to help them learn from past mistakes and repeat past successes consistently. They will have communication plans in place to prevent misunderstandings; they will actively manage expectations so there is no disappointment with the final outcome. And crucially they will identify risks upfront to help them manage and mitigate the risks.
All of these skills, along with the right behaviours and attitudes, will likely have been developed in pursuit of professional qualifications and certifications from organisations such as the Association for Project Management (APM). The APM have a range of project management qualifications and certifications for project managers at all stages of their careers and these accreditations have always been important in the world of project management for advancing careers and improving prospects. But there has always been something missing – a way for people not working in project management to understand and appreciate just how professional the role of project manager is.
Now, at long last, the APM has been granted a Royal Charter so project management will become a chartered profession in the same way as, say, accountancy. And project managers will finally get true professional recognition.
Michelle Symonds’ Bio:
Michelle Symonds is the Search Marketing Consultant for Parallel Project Training and writes about a range of project management and general business topics. She is the founder of Ditto Digital and also Editor of the PM news site Project Accelerator.