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Anyone can do this job, right?

The boss storms into Bob’s office waving a financial report from the CFO’s office which he firmly places on the center of Bob’s desk and exclaims, “Did you realize how much money we are spending on those senior-level project managers?!”

After swallowing hard, Bob replies, “Umm…no, boss, I didn’t realize that; however, they have been doing consistently great work for us and we have not experienced even one project failure since they started working here.”

The boss quickly says, “Bob, I just spoke to Diane in human resources. Based on her many years of experience in human resources, she has convinced me that these project managers are a dime-a-dozen and we don’t need to spend so much money for paper-pushers and newspaper readers. So, I want you to work with Diane to write up a job description because I just got budget approval from the division administrator to hire replacements at about a third of the cost.”

“Yes, boss, I’ll get on this right away!” Bob confirms as the boss walks out of his office.

During the next several days, Bob has multiple brief meetings and email exchanges with Diane about the job description. Diane agrees with Bob on a final version which is then posted to the job board of the organization’s website.

As Bob and Diane wait for the resumés to start rolling in, let’s examine some key language in the job requirements and nice-to-haves:

  1. 2-4 years of formal project management experience
  2. PMP certification
  3. Simultaneously manage complex projects with lots of moving parts
  4. Adeptly address challenges that hinder project success
  5. Maintain agreement among a diversified group of stakeholders

What does 2-4 Years of formal experience combined with PMP certification mean for your organization?

We see statements similar to this in many junior-level project management job postings. These types of combined requirements and nice-to-haves raises issues such as the following:

  • The Project Management Institute’s current requirements to apply for permission to take the PMP exam includes, but is not limited to, the following prerequisites:
    • Secondary degree, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education
    • Four-year degree, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, 35 hours of project management education
  • As an example, a candidate in the middle – with only three years of experience, approximately 4,500 hours of formal project management, is not a candidate who is going to prove consistently adept at addressing complex project issues with multiple stakeholders who have different interests and request divergent desired outcomes from the project(s). They are new to project management and new to office politics, so this resource can be counted on to be overwhelmed and unable to effectively cope with complex and/or fast-paced project environments since they do not yet truly understand how to lead successful projects. Veteran project managers know how to lead projects as opposed to manage them. We will provide more details about the leadership versus management in the next section.

If we are intent on paying peanuts, we shall get monkeys!

Hopefully, a junior-level project manager will have at least some basic level of familiarity with project management:

  • Focus on tactics
  • Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Obtain and organize resources that do not belong to the project manager
  • Control situations
  • Problem solving

Even if a junior-level project manager can perform some or all of the management tasks noted above at a fraction of the investment needed to have a senior-level project manager leading your team, it is important that we look at the situation from a systemic big-picture level. The ROI for your organization when attempting to have a junior-level project manager save money versus a senior-level project manager, is going to be significantly lower if not totally non-existent.

For example, Bob and his boss are going to devote a lot more of their valuable time having to micromanage the inexperienced project manager they have chosen to hire because of their linear focus on an immediate bottom-line budget number.

That is going to be valuable time taken away from more important work during the business day. This bleeding they begin to experience from the need to micromanage the junior resource will further translate into time taken away from their family and hobbies which means that their overall quality of life outside of normal business hours will also suffer significantly.

This is because Bob and his boss will find themselves consumed with firefighting to stave off the eventual – and many times immediate – realization of multiple complex project risk events, and many other organizational change management issues that the junior-level project manager simply cannot properly address without significant hands-on support from them; thereby negating the anticipated savings from using a dime-a-dozen junior project manager and eliminating any hoped for ROI with the junior project manager.

When all is said and done, how can a smart and dynamic executive truly concerned about project and program success believe that replacing senior-level project managers with junior-level project managers really makes dollars and sense?

The Case for Senior-level Project & Program Managers

A senior-level project manager has not only mastered the previously mentioned project management attributes plus many more, they have also mastered project leadership:

  • Significant hands-on experience with negotiations, cost management, and schedule management.
  • Strategic planning that includes organizational change management for complex initiatives
  • Thinking and acting holistically because senior-level project managers lead and act systemically instead of linearly.
  • Sharing a vision of bold goals and desired outcomes
  • Setting direction
  • Aligning resources who know more about the project subject matter than the project manager
  • Empowering the team
  • Inspiring the team by giving them primary credit for all project successes
  • Motivating the team
  • Leading by example with their work ethic and attitude
  • Listen, listen, and listen far more than they speak.

All project and program management consultants at RTI are senior-level veterans who will make sure your project and program initiatives are holistically led to their successful desired outcome(s) with none of the high risk exposure posed by using myopic junior-level PMs whose upfront cost appears desirable only until the moment that smart big-picture executives add up the costs of their linear thinking and actions, the significant risk exposure, and exponential increase in exposure to project and/or program failure.

The question is not

“How can our organization afford senior-level project management?”;

Instead, the real question is,

“How can our organization not afford to invest in senior-level project management for our many ongoing complex initiatives which are under constant scrutiny by c-level executives who hold us directly accountable for any sub-par results and project failures?”

When your organization cannot afford to roll the dice with inexperienced project managers, contact RTI for systemic project leadership that will get your project done right the first time. Please use our contact form to learn more about how we can help your organization achieve sustainable success today.

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