RIP Project Manager (1950-2017) ?

For almost sixty years project management grew from non-existing into a full profession, providing work for many practitioners, trainers, and coaches worldwide. Project management has an extensive body of knowledge, certification programs, associations in various countries. Complex and uncertain change initiatives were managed, in the public opinion often leading to costly failures. Still e.g. IPMA Netherlands has the vision to create a better world through better projects.

Woe the software development project manager!

Whereas project management’s raison d’être is not discussed in the construction industry, the organization of large events like conventions, elections, concerts, software development has become normal and is open for all kinds of lean tools and processes, that projects as temporary organization to build and implement new software for business processes automation or support are no longer perceived as necessary.

Unless project managers reposition themselves as Agile Coach, Scrum Master, or Product owner, they’re fired en masse from large financial institutions. Middle managers are stripped radically since “self-organizing teams simplify (project) management. More responsibilities at a lower organization level require less overhead and management layers, administrative and reporting”,  as a December 2016 Request for Advice in a large Dutch financial institution argues. Down or out!

Agile software development, in the past 15 years embraced by project managers and implemented in their team level way of working, turned out to be a Trojan horse for the project manager. We ended up still being called project manager without having a single team of our own, dealing with multiple Product owners, still facing the same challenges regarding stakeholder management, longer term planning, overview, etc.

Am I fooling people when I provide training courses on PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile? Will these wannabe project managers be dead on arrival? Project management trainer and public speaker John Hermarij in a November 2016 blog openly asked Is Project Management still needed after Agile? “We’re in the midst of a full implementation of Agile. The project is removed from the team. It’s likely that more than 75 percent of all projects will be gone in five years. Unless a kind of black swan will stop this transition, you’re doomed as project manager. The agility in organizations is a vital competence for yourself.”

Will a certification or job title help me out?

Hermarij in a December 2016 blog The Manifesto isn’t Agile anymore: “Jobs are shuffled to get non-routine activities done. Whether you call these programs, projects or release trains doesn’t matter. If you want to be agile and competent in this playing field, you shouldn’t care about a job title. You are your own brand. All your knowledge, competencies and experiences make you who you are. Not specialists, but generic, T-shaped professionals will be most agile. A certificate is not the proof of all your accomplishments, but the start.”

And this is exactly the reason for the individual competence baseline being the norm for IPMA certification is still valid. It’s independent of methods, job titles, organization structure, and processes. In his 2017 book Strategie = Executie (Strategy = Execution), Jacques Pijl perceives digital innovation as the largest business trend. The most important competency for new data-driven business models is analytical skills. Statistics and structured thinking and performance are crucial. A next competence no single entrepreneur may underestimate is project management skills. If someone excels in project management it’s facilitating other employees. These competencies are more important than creativity, although it seems to be a taboo to admit. (p.49-53).

Your next career move…is up to you!

In 2016 I saw LinkedIn connections with a project manager profile switch to other roles, ranging from Scrum master, business manager of an indoor children’s playground to Java developer. Former senior project and program managers retired. Others improved their performance score as Service manager or started to train in project management like I did.

Seek help when you’re in doubt. That’s where social networks and project management associations are for, right? Understand that the world changed during your last project execution, and your next career move may be called differently. Consider reading a few (scientific) books on project management and leadership. Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme by Robert k. Wysocki already had its 7th edition in 2013. Byron A. Love wrote IT Project Management: A Geek’s Guide to Leadership in 2016. These are just a few examples.

To rest in peace has never been a project manager’s competence, whereas self-reflection and self-management are in the IPMA Competence Baseline 4th Edition.