Project Managers Need to Step It Up

Posted on August 06, 2019
Project Managers Need to Step It Up

I struggled with the title of this post. The title I chose could just as easily be:

“So, What Else Do You Have?”

“Good Project Managers are a Dime a Dozen… What Makes You Special?”

Or how about…

“PMP, Subject Matter Expertise and a Great Track Record are my Baseline Requirements – I Need More”

David Barrett photo
David Barrett

They all deliver the same message. I can get a good project manager, with the PMP designation and subject matter expertise, anywhere these days. When I am looking for senior project managers, I am looking for people who are more than that, who can deliver more than the usual and who can stand out in the crowd as a real value-add to the business.

You see, when I start looking for a new project manager, internal or external, I need to narrow the crowd down – and it is crowded. I need to get the pile of 30 applications down to five before I start the interview process.

So, what makes you a good enough candidate to get to the pile of five?

Let me share three ideas that might help.

  1. Start thinking, talking and walking strategically. I want my project managers to be able to contribute to the conversation at a level that goes beyond today and even tomorrow. I want my senior resources to be part of the conversation that deals with things like:
    • Why are we doing this?
    • What business value are we delivering?
    • How does the work we are doing connect to the strategic plan – to the future of the organization?
  2. Learn about the business. Most project managers will stick to their silo and do very well there. But the special ones know how the whole business operates and this gives them a competitive advantage. If you know how the rest of the business works, you are better able to connect the dots as you are working for me. You are better positioned to communicate with our stakeholders and better able to pull all the pieces together.
  3. Learn about your industry. Go out and learn about the future trends within your industry, about the current day issues your organization has and more importantly, go out and study your competitors. All of this extra intelligence will put you into a better position to be prepared for the changes to the business coming down the line, for the new project work you will have to deal with next year and for the changes to the competitive landscape in your industry.

I can get a good project manager with a PMP and subject matter expertise anywhere. What I really want is a project manager with all of that PLUS a strategic mindset, a thorough knowledge of the business and a good grasp of our industry and what tomorrow might be bring us.

It is time to step it up.


David Barrett is national program director of Schulich ExecEd’s Masters Certificate in Project Management (starting Sept. 12, 2019).