Q&A Project Management Careers – Large Project Experience?

A phrase often seen in job adverts for project professionals is “must have experience of large programmes/ projects” and this always begs the question – what is meant by large? How do you know if what you’ve been previously involved with is considered ‘large’ by the organisation that is now recruiting? Are they referring to total costs? Number of people involved? Number of sub-projects involved? Length of time to completion? Impact on the organisation?

The next problem is what may be large to one organisation may be a mere drop in the ocean to another.

If you are in a position to be able to describe your past project work experiences as being part of a large programme/ project, what does this say about you to the prospective employer? Whatever criteria has been used to describe the experience as large, it doesn’t follow that the project was complicated or particularly difficult in its execution and implementation. If you had a small part in something that went very well, it’s difficult to see how this showcases your skills and knowledge to best effect or what can be deduced from this about your future behaviour as a project professional.

Perhaps what the employer should be asking for is evidence of having worked on complex projects and programmes? I can’t help but think that this would give everyone a better opportunity to understand the value that the individual can supply. Again, using the term complex also begs a definition.

There is a whole body of work dedicated to dealing with the issue of complexity in projects and I’m sure that if you look hard enough someone, somewhere will have developed formulae or algorithms which could be employed to deliver some numerical value of complexity but how would this help the prospective employer or project professional? It probably wouldn’t – instinct suggests that the calculation would be – well, very complex!

What is needed is some quick, rule-of-thumb type method that could quickly be employed to act as an indicator to the level of complexity in a project or programme.

It strikes me that the one variable in any project that is difficult to ‘control’ is the people factor. There is nothing like all those people imbued with free-will to act as the proverbial spanner in the works and what really complicates things is when priorities conflict. And the one work relationship that everyone is desperate to maintain in the most positive light is the one between yourself and the person who has the most influence over your remuneration/ reward for the following year.

Could an indicator of complexity on a project be derived from the Organisational Chart? What sort of numerical indicator would result from counting the number of people working on the project and multiplying them by the number of different line managers all these people report into (regardless of whether the manager was working on the project or not) multiplied by the number of different directors to which ultimately, all the line managers belong?

With an indicator like this, both prospective employers and project professionals can sing from the same hymn sheet and hopefully both would be able to understand each others requirements and expertise more accurately.


Share: Linkedin Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo


  1. Well, I have posted a comment before but not quite sure why it was lost!

    The definition of large project is quite subjective and I have shared my views regarding this topic in my last blog post “Budge Doesn’t Matter” http://kareemshaker.com/project-management/budget-doesnt-matter/

    Many PPM professionals tend to exaggerate their skills and the projects they have managed or worked on, yet managing a large project does not necessarily mean that the project was complicated and challenging, please refer to my post for more.


Leave your thoughts