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Arras People Project Management Newsletter

May 2010 - The Project Management Professional

Dear Reader,

The imaginations of our youth had us form-fitted to clothing and manner that befit a professional, whether as a lawyer, firefighter, policeman/woman, footballer or other. Now, project management professionals find themselves on the cusp of realising that childhood dream. But what about the meantime?

The May edition of Tipoffs recognises that professionalism is a hot-button issue for the UK project management market. The Association for Project Management (APM) awaits the results of its application for Chartered professional status, but actions can be taken to get your professional practitioner ducks in a row. For instance, we answer these three questions:

  • How does a "professional" project manager act?
  • Until a Standard is made official, how would APM suggest a professional project manager act?
  • How can the project management job seeker look "professional" to the recruiter?


Guest reviewer John Greenwood reviews our book of the month, Project Management Demystified, Third Edition. Capping it all off is our Q&A session, where a reader seeks advice on keeping their personal details out of the CV.


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A Word From the Leading Professionals' on Professionalisation

Project Management Professionals "Leave it to the professionals" is a nice way of telling someone undertaking a fault-riddled task that the matter is best left to someone with the requisite expertise. In the case of professionalising project managers, it would make sense to go straight to the veteran project managers that ooze expertise from their pores. All of them in one way or another share their expertise willingly via the modern social media tools, and welcomed the opportunity to join in the discussion.

In essence, to gain a comfortable level of diversity in opinion, voices advocating project management throughout the world need to be heard. Americans, Continental Europeans and Australians as well as project management personnel from the UK chimed in when I asked them, "What do you believe it means to be 'professional' as it pertains to your work and appearance as a PPM practitioner?"

Here's what they told me:

Craig Brown, Better Projects: "There are a couple of dimensions I like to draw out in this discussion.
 
The first is that if you become a professional you can command higher rates, but this is still capped by what people can afford and the value they can pull out of a project. PMs already command a fairly good rate of pay. How much will it go up?
 
Secondly, with great power comes great responsibility. As a professional you need to be accountable for the advice you give and the way you run a team. If you screw up you are personally liable to the client. Given most problems with projects tend to originate on the client side how much do you think clients want to get your professional advice? My thinking; Some will, some won't and the ones who will pay up will be better clients to work for. And your professional indemnity cover will be going up.
 
Thirdly, professional accreditation doesn't eliminate the need to continue to learn and improve. In fact it probably accelerates it. So it should be good for the industry as a whole."


Peter Taylor, The Lazy Project Manager: "Is this person I see before me now a 'professional' project manager?

  • Are they confident (an easy check) and are they competent (references and time can tell you this)?
  • Are they honest and caring (about the project, about the people and about the customer)?
  • Is there clarity in their communications and actions?
  • Are they practical and realistic?


If they are then whether or not they are a 'professional' I reckon you will be able to work with them in a productive way."

Cornelius Fichtner, PM Podcast:

"To me, professionalism means that I have an unwavering focus on courtesy and honesty in my interactions with customers and project stakeholders. It also means that I accept personal accountability for the projects that are assigned to me and that I go 'the extra mile' for my project and demonstrate excellence that goes beyond what is usually expected."

Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike.com, Project Management 2.0:


"The one context independent and broad advice that comes to my mind is to love your job, try to excel in it, and continuously improve based on past experience. This way your chances of behaving professionally not only increase significantly at any given moment, but also grow with the time. The answer matches the original question in its degree of generalization."

Josh Nankivel, PMStudent:

"First, there is a difference between a 'professional' and a 'profession'. I would say that I am a project management professional; but I would not say that project management is a profession.

"'Professional' is really a more generic term meaning that you earn a living doing something. (A professional basketball player, football player, etc.)"


"In order for project management to attain the status of 'profession'

  • There must be a standard licensing board that certifies knowledge and competency (most likely, country-specific)
  • There must be a rigorous educational requirement before certification (akin to medical school, law school, internship over the course of years, etc.)
  • Individuals must not be allowed to practice outside of an educational/intern setting unless they are certified (look at medicine, law, and other true professions)
  • There must be some kind of formal fiduciary responsibility placed on the licensed, certified project manager (akin to law, financial services, etc.)"


Derek Huether, The Critical Path:

"I think to be professional is to never forget what your job is, never forget who your customer is, and never forget who your team is. I constantly remind myself of those things. Why? Because each has a different perception of the other, based on perspective. It is my job to bridge the gaps between each, ensuring value is delivered and our mutual goals are achieved."

Elizabeth Harrin, Author and Blogger, A Girl's Guide to Project Management:

"My view on how to be professional is simply to do what you say you are going to do. If you say you'll do a status report every Friday, do it. If you promise a phone call within the hour, do it. Delivering on your promises is the best way (in my opinion) to be seen as credible and professional. If for any reason you can't do what you said you would, let the person know, explain the reason if it is appropriate and give them a new time that you will be able to meet."

"Don't let deadlines go whizzing past without either hitting them or explaining why you can't - you leave people in the lurch and they won't know whether you've done it and not told them, or just let it slip."


Pawel Brodzinski, Software Project Management -

"I think there are (at least) two perspectives one could use to percept professionalism in project management: one is very high-level opinion what is professionalism in general and another is very subjective and personal approach to a subject with all specific of fulfilled role, work environment, surrounding organization and, finally, own character.
 
If we try to define what professionalism is in general we'll probably end up with something like doing what you're told and expected to do and doing it well. Thinking about project management it would be following your methodology (whichever it is), performing tasks assigned to your role etc. All the boring stuff. If you still think it's a bit too boring to call it professionalism, fine. After all project management isn't about changing the world - it is about getting things done."


We want to hear your thoughts on professionalism. Sign on to How to Manage a Camel, where this post is being re-printed, and comment on what you think a professional project manager is.

APM Weighs In: Do We Need a Coalition to Determine How a Professional Should Act?

APM ProfessionalThough there is no recent update regarding the application for Chartered status, the Association for Project Management (APM) appear to be putting significant effort into phase 2 of their "Chartered & Beyond"#1 initiative.

The marketing machine of the APM has initiated a number of threads to increase their take on what professionalism is in the context of project management. APM has churned out articles in Project magazine, a new blog (complete with accompanying Twitter account) and, most enlightening of all, a new website dedicated to the proposition of professionalism in PPM through their new theme of the 5 Dimensions of Professionalism. This was also backed up by a public presentation at Project Challenge by Liz Wilson (Head of Professional Standards and Knowledge at the APM) which can be downloaded here.

Tipoffs contributor John Thorpe has filled readers in before on the details of the 5 Dimensions, so it would seem there is no real need to rehash things in this space. What is worth noting though is that the "pilot" appears to be an exercise in fitting their current members into their new world structure, rather than an exercise that looks to include non members and other PPM disciplines.

Transparent debates and roundtable discussions have been the norm with the APM, including one led by APM Chairman Mike Nichols in September 2008 with representatives of the leading associations for other professions.
 
A more recent discussion on professionalism and the role of qualifications featured in the May 2010 issue of Project magazine (.PDF). Liz Wilson and Andrew Bragg (chair) represented APM in the nine-person panel. One of the crucial issues for professionalism is the matter of qualifications, and how the industry struggles with an identity-crisis to employers due to practitioners who can pass an exam and be deemed a "project manager." Wilson is troubled by this.
 
"I think collectively as an industry we still have some work to do to educate employers about what qualifications say about people," she said in the Project article. "It is slightly unfair to say a particular qualification, whether APMP or PRINCE2®, doesn't attest to competence if that is not what it is designed to do. The real issue is people expecting qualifications to indicate other things they are not designed to test. But how do you communicate that to industry and find a programme of learning and qualifications that meets those expectations?"
 
When it comes to assessing project managers for the charter, Wilson toed the APM 5 Dimensions line on simple course times that take less than a week to complete: For the professional project manager, it was not going to cut it. Moreover, assessment itself would not serve as a be-all, end-all for professionals, either.
 
"I have difficulty with a qualification where the standard mode of delivery is a two, three or five-day course with an exam at end of it. You have to encourage people to embrace APM's five dimensions in terms of breadth and depth, so that people sign up to the notion of life-long learning."
 
"We need to have more flexible qualifications so senior project managers can engage on where their status already sits. There must be other things; qualifications can only be some of the answer and not all of it. There is tendency to think all the things that make a project work have to focus on the competency of the individual whereas, in fact, the organisation or project team needs to have the confidence and capability to do what needs to be done. Not every project manager has to have the same profile skills or competencies."
 
One element of dispute was the role soft skills have to play in professionalism. Arras People's Lindsay Scott specifically emphasized a need for more focus on the behavioural soft skills and contextual skills which a project management professional needs to perform their roles successfully.
 
Wilson worried what that might do to perception of the profession as a whole. "But how do we focus on interpersonal or 'softer' skills, without being seen to be 'dumbing' down on project management qualifications?" she asked. Scott and Peter Simon of Lucidus Consulting both stated that wasn't the perception in the wider project management marketplace. Toni Wynne (Office of Government Commerce) went one step further and stated that commercial skills were also an important requirement in a project professional's competence and capability levels.

It is good to see these open debates and initiatives; though as a party with no axe to grind other than a meaningful move to professional status, Arras People would like to see more emphasis on being inclusive. Significant players such as the APM-Group, the OGC, PMI, etc., will need to buy into the future of the profession if the APM is to meet the objective of "becoming the owner of the profession for society". The feeling would appear to be that the industry recognises the need for a change of emphasis from "trained in project management" to "trained and competent to be a project manager"; so maybe the time has come to take the lead from the politicians and form a working Coalition which can deliver for the practitioners?

 

#1 - As the UK's largest Professional Membership Organisation#2, the Association for Project Management (APM) decided to aim for the status of a Chartered Body: from where they can become the "creator and then owner of the profession for society" in the UK.

 

Launched in 2007 "Chartered & Beyond" had a clear 2 step plan; Phase 1 - Implementation of the Royal Charter; Phase 2 -Implementation of register of Chartered Project Professionals (ChPP). In the early days there were timescales (now passed) aligned to this plan, though at the time of writing, the decision still lies with the Privy Council. However the APM are still hopeful of a positive outcome from the formal application, submitted in October 2008 and are "engaging directly with the decision-makers in government, whilst maintaining a "dignified silence" in public".

 

#2 - The APM recently announced that their membership has reached (and recently passed) 18,000 individual members.

Convincing The Recruiter: Looking Professional in Your Job Search

APM ProfessionalIn the project management recruitment process, it is not a given that recruiters know you and/or your work from the start. Often, they have little more to go by than the contents of a CV and a short covering letter. If professionalism is going to happen in project management, it will be a turning point in the hiring process for all project managers. Until that day comes, it behoves you to look the part to the conduit between you and your next employer.
 
"I think of professionalism as an attitude and more to do with the way they conduct themselves rather than what the CV says," says Mick Hides, Project Management Consultant at Arras People. "Having said that, with a CV, you are trying to convey confidence that an employer can buy into. At the end of the day employers are looking to minimise the risk to their project by hiring a good PM."
 
"All organisations are different. Therefore I would suggest you look to list core competencies in a contextualised manner," says Mick . "For instance: 'Write a business case after conducting feasibility studies for a new business transformation project based around implementing new CRM systems cross functionally, submitted for approval with the steering group and sponsor.' Demonstrating your involvement on the project and which elements of the lifecycle, can help ensure you are ticking all the right boxes with employers, HR staff and recruiters. Do not assume they know you have done ABC in order to deliver XYZ."
 
A trend in recent recruitment shows that solid self-promotion in marketing your CV for a role can sometimes leave better qualified practitioners out in the dark. Mick feels the good self-promoter addresses the needs of the vacancy effectively.
 
"I can only go on what has been provided in the CV," he says. "It is possible that there are better candidates who have applied but I have not been able to tell because of a poor CV. The candidates that ring us to complain that they have not been put forward would probably agree with this."
 
Mick also wants his candidates to be professional by showing their ability to cope with pressure.
 
"Project management tends to mean working within a pressurised environment," she says. "Every part of the recruitment process is a test to see how you cope under pressure and in uncomfortable situations. By not maintaining that professional stance you may pull yourself out of the running for a role."

Gary Holmes is another Arras professional who assigns a strong value to having a section of your CV devoted to your professional achievements.

"Bearing Mick's point in mind, achievements sections on a CV are a great way of separating yourself from the crowd and showing potential employers what you are really like as a PM," he says. "A good achievements section will take specific instances of challenges within projects and demonstrate how the Project Manager used his skill set and experience to overcome them."

Your confidence can be exuded in a well-written CV. Yet Gary advises his candidates to never expect the CV speaks for your qualities alone - it has to come through at the interview stage as well.

"Your CV will only get your foot in the door - if you suddenly become all coy at the interview don't be surprised if they go for the more confident candidate," he says. "Don't be afraid to take ownership for the things you've done in the interview process. It can be as simple as saying 'I' instead of 'we' when talking through your anecdotal evidence."
 
Certain ways of applying for a role can show who looks professional quite easily. All three have their own perspectives on cover letters, for instance.
 
"My usual method of short listing is via a CV," says Mick. "I do not look at cover letters unless I specifically ask for one - but then most people ignore that request anyway."
 
Gary, on the other hand, state reasons for being a fan of the cover letter.
 
"The cover letter is a good test to see if the applicant has; 1) Read the advert. 2) Has good attention to detail. 3) Can follow simple instruction," she says. "It won't necessarily knock them out of my shortlist but it does give me a sense of how they work - this will be scrutinised in the interview with me."

"I want to see that the candidate is able to read the job ad in its entirety and respond to what I am looking for," Gary says of requiring cover letters. "Likewise, however, a good cover letter can make the difference to me sometimes. If the candidate has taken the time to write a letter specific to that role and highlight the areas of their CV where I should be looking, it shows real commitment and gives the impression that they are not just applying on a whim."

Direct phone calls for particularly eager applicants are another part of the recruiter's life. So long as the caller follows up.
 
"The caller may pique my interest but then I would want to confirm that with a review of the CV," says Mick.

These are merely a few small steps a candidate can take to improving their job search capabilities. With resources at your fingertips from the Arras People staff (i.e. Careers Clinics, Advice Pages, Interview Questions, among many others), job candidates have a great opportunity to improve their professional look in their search for gainful project employment.

For futher advice on Project Management Recruitment Ideas or Q&A Project Management Careers, visit the Camel blog today
 

Review -Project Management Demystified

Project Management DemystifiedIn his book Project Management Demystified, Geoff Reiss takes a real-world, warts-and-all look at the experiences and skills of a project manager. He starts with the premise that a good project manager is unlikely to be recognised by their organisation; that if they run their projects well, they will remain invisible and that the only time their profile is raised is when their projects hit trouble. This view struck a chord, reminding me of a conversation I had with a colleague many years ago when we came to the belief that the organisation for which we then worked would recognise staff for winning large projects or for rescuing projects from the mire, but rarely for the successful and drama-free management of a project throughout its life cycle.  Fortunately, side-marks mark the opportunities for the project manager to draw attention to their contribution.
 
In defining project management as a profession, it is described as being agnostic with regard to the business or type of project. A series of paragraphs introduce project management in many different areas, from publishing to space exploration, charity events to defence, construction to business change; and describe the nature of projects in each of these areas. The principles and techniques of the project manager are the same in each of these areas, in the same way that the principles and techniques used by an accountant are constant across industries. It is noted that project managers do not perform the productive work of the project, they manage that work. This important aspect of the profession seems self-evident to the majority of project managers I know, yet completely alien to recruiters who persist in asking for their project managers to have technical skills.
 
A large portion of the book is devoted to describing the stages of a project and the activities undertaken by the project manager during those stages. The textual descriptions of the work are immediately approachable; though when addressing the details of the topics, the descriptions are less successful, either as an approachable introduction for the layman, or as a clear reference book.
 
The chapter on People Issues provides a useful reminder to the project manager that their projects are performed by teams of people, and that people are all different. The reader is introduced to the Adair model (unfortunately Mr Adair goes uncredited, which hinders further research), and descriptions of many personality types that would be familiar to anyone who has looked at the works of Jung, Meyers-Briggs or Belbin tests. A comparison of the traits of project managers versus those of managers is interesting, though the suggestion that project managers need to be "impatient", "anticipate what people will say and interrupt", and "consider their own view of themselves important", reads like a recipe for the type of project manager who leaves a trail of casualties in their wake. Such project managers do exist, but their teams generally work 'for' them rather than 'with' them, and team members are rarely seen queuing up to work on their next project.
 
The book provides an interesting perspective on the profession of project management that will amuse and prepare people embarking on their careers. It may put a number of potential project managers off the profession; this may be for their own good. For project managers looking for a reference book to take them through the mechanics of planning, running and reporting on a project, there are books that present the material more clearly, though without the humour.

Reviewed by John Greenwood

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: John Greenwood has around 15 years of project management experience gained in the engineering and IT industries, and has been an active member of the PMI UK Chapter. He holds a degree in Physics from the University of Birmingham, and has worked for a number of years as a Systems Engineer in the defence electronics industry.

Project Career Q&A

"How can I post my CV online without giving out my personal details?" - Peter, Bristol

Thanks for your question. Contrary to popular belief, you don't actually have to give out any additional details on your CV over and above your name, mobile number, email address and high level location (county or city). Not providing additional detail like your full address, date of birth (not required due the Age legislation laws) and National Insurance number, does not hinder your chances when looking for a new role.

The bear minimum of contact details is adequate; they let the recruiter or organisation how to contact you, what to call you and give them a rough idea of where you are located.If you find yourself in a position where further details are asked for; especially when posting a CV online, just ignore the boxes where you can or enter some other data. It's a different situation if you are applying for a role directly with an organisation through an application form or through their CV submission process, if address details are asked for you should supply them. At least these details are not being broadcast across a job board where you have no way of knowing who is looking for them. More personal details like copies of passports, driving licence and national insurance numbers should only be asked for when a job offering is imminent. Anytime before this and you should decline, citing security and data protection reasons. OK, this might sound pompous but there really is no reason for anyone to ask for the details earlier in the recruitment process.

Remember, once you've given out these details, on job boards or anywhere else, it's difficult to keep a track of who knows what about you. With the incidences like identity fraud you should do everything you can to keep your personal details under wrap. Finally, the next time you are asked for personal details in the recruitment process, ask the question; "What do you need them for at this stage?". You'll be surprised at the answer. Most answers are; because they can, not because the details are needed for any particular reason.

If you would like to put a question to us, contact us and it could end up in a future edition of the Tipoffs Q&A. For more examples like this and/or further help & advice regarding extending your search and creating professional and effective cover letters refer to our Project Management Careers clinic / Project Management Careers Advice pages.

Got a question for us? Contact us today.

You can also send a question in for us through the Camel blog - have a look at the Q&A Project Management Careers series on the blog and send through a question to feature in future editions of Tipoffs

Featured Article

Project Manager Redundancy

You've heard the saying "leave it to the professionals". So, when it came to project management professionalism, we did.

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Arras takes part in APM debate

APM's Project Magazine

Arras People's Lindsay Scott was one of nine panelists involved in a round-table discussion about professionalism in project management qualifications. The heart of the discussion, featuring a variety of consultants from all walks of the PPM industry in the UK, was featured in Project magazine, the official magazine from the Association for Project Management (APM).

Chaired by Andrew Bragg, chief executive of APM, Lindsay's voice was heard on professional issues including perception, competencies, soft skills, project failure, and assessment, among others.

The article can be found here (.PDF)
, so have a look at what Lindsay and her fellow project professionals have to say.

Looking for Careers Advice?

Project Management Careers Clinics

Need project management careers advice? Arras People can help

It's difficult finding someone to talk to about your project management career - if you're looking for a job and not getting the interviews you need or thinking about your skills gaps and capabilities but not sure about where you need to focus - Arras People can help you.

A third party view of the world providing an one-to-one session with you could be just what you need to plan your next move.

Take a look at the project management career clinics for more information

 

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