Wanted: Competant Project Managers

Over the past few years there has been a significant push, especially in the United States on the importance of math and science education for the young.  There has been an understanding that emerging nations like India and China have passed the United States in graduating engineers and scientists from the university.  The math and science shortage has been felt in places like the UK, U.S. , and even Australia.  The latest stories have spotlighted the skills shortage overall in the Project Management field.

The shortage in very good, and competent project managers has significant implications for large scale projects moving forward.  The downside of having issues with project management is the reality that project overruns and extending time estimates on projects have negative effects for progress in building and other projects.  Scope creep is an effect that starts to affect large scale projects.

The article spotlights some findings that they studied in India with the help of PMI India and KPMG.  India is in a building phase in their country life cycle.  Lots of new infrastructure is needed to handle the more than 1 billion people that inhabit their country.  People will start to expect certain amenities as people start to gain a little bit of wealth and move towards the middle class.

There is an expected 1 trillion dollars in infrastructure that will be spent in the next four years.  80% of the developers of the different projects are unable to find good project managers to execute this increased infrastructure build.  The study that KMPG facilitated found that “some projects are delayed by external factors such as land acquisition or regulatory approvals which are beyond the control of the executing agency, a majority of projects are delayed by factors that can be controlled at the project level through proper planning and project management.”

While this article focuses on India, it seems to me that this is a world wide problem.  Just like there is an aversion to math and science all over the world, project managers have become something that has been very hard to find.  Project managers have a lot of responsibility on different projects.  They are forced to be “experts” in statistical analysis, manufacturing, operations, and forecasting among other things.  They need to be able to multi-task on many different jobs to be successful.

The long term effect of a shortage of math and science and project management could be catastrophic.  China is ahead of the curve by having 106 universities that focus on project management and their skills.  All countries need to focus its efforts on these skills in order to keep up with proper infrastructure.  We are getting to a point in America where we need new bridges and roads, and if every project we have continues to have scope creep, we will put our economy into a further tailspin.

Do you think that having a skills shortage for project managers is a problem?  What are the long term implications? How do you fix this problem?

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4 thoughts on “Wanted: Competant Project Managers

  1. I recently shadowed with a Project Manager in my organization. WIthin the first 5 minutes of our conversation it became abundantly clear that the necessary skill set for the position cast an extremely wide net. Like you mentioned, it seems to be more and more difficult to find competent project managers. It seems that because there are so many necessary skills that unless candidates have a background or education specifically in Project Management it might be difficult for the workforce to find effective Product Managers. Also, as businesses get more complex and technology savvy it seems that the majority of departments/roles could benefit from Project Management techniques. I liked the article you selected and I think you hit the topic on the head- Project Management is a growing field that will only become more relevant as time goes on.

  2. You have a great topic here. Over the past few years, it seems that “steady-state” business is a group of projects. Is see projects from compliance to cost cutting to transformation and beyond kicked off regularly. Some are formal and others are not. Project management is a very difficult role because many times you are asking people to do something beyond their everyday responsibility. We’ve talked a lot in the class about project plans, resource allocation and scheduling but we haven’t discussed leading people. Adding to the complexity is the project manager is often asked to do this in unique situations. There is rarely a time you have the same people and culture repeated. I think there will always be a need for great project managers because I believe that’s what business is now due to the rapidly changing environment. We should remember this as we move forward with our careers. I also believe the training doesn’t end with project management. Business culture needs to change to understand how they can run more efficiently because it’s not the big that eat the little. The fast beat the slow.

  3. Jeff, very interesting article.

    I recently started to look for different options as far as career and I was extremely surprised to see how many job offers I have received related to my experience as project manager and engineer.
    It seems that the shortage of engineers and project managers and even worse, project managers with the proper engineering background is extremely deep and many companies cannot find the professionals they want and need. There is where another problem comes to place which is the insufficient number of work visas available yearly for bringing international resources to the USA since local resources are not at all available.
    My opinion is that worse than not finding or hiring the needed project manager is the possible workaround of putting people without the background, education, preparation, thought process and experience to manage projects, with which consequences are catastrophic and costly.
    Project Management salaries are on a rise so it may be the right time for you to take this new wave.

  4. I really enjoy the conversation of India and China’s growth. It presents some interesting problems, the likes of which we’ve never seen here in the US. Culture comes in to play as much as Education. However, I think the real question is about experience. Is India growing so fast, that there are no adequately experienced Project Managers for the large tasks at hand? The American and European Industrial Revolutions spanned many decades (between 1760 and 1830) and gave birth to generations of PMs and bundles of experience. Did India skip this step? Is that the root of the problem? Is it culture and education? Hard to say.

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