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What Really Are the Drivers of Success?

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as Co-CEO of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

If you’ve read the 2018 edition of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report, “Success in Disruptive Times,” you know their top three drivers are:

  1. Executive Sponsorship
  2. Controlling Project Scope and
  3. Value Delivery Capabilities

Looking at these drivers through my professional development lens, my perspective is that all of them have a thread of “project management competency development” woven though, and if organizations want to maximize their performance, they would be wise to develop the full spectrum of competencies that make up each driver.

According to PMI’s study, 9.9% of every dollar is wasted due to poor project performance.  (This has improved since 2013, when 13.5% of every dollar was wasted.)  Some organizations, referred to by PMI as “the champions,” are reinvesting these savings to mature their project talent, among other things.  These organizations realize that these project and program managers need the right skills to drive and navigate change in their ever-changing organizations.

But what are the “right” skills?  Based on how critical the project manager’s role has become, these skills now include strong visionary capability, and a “big picture” perspective.  More innovation, more flexibility, and a higher degree of emotional intelligence are now required.  In our 2015 Project Manager Skills Benchmark study, both executives and project managers agreed that honesty and integrity were the most important qualities for project managers. And the dynamic project manager should have some experience with all management approaches, including waterfall, Scrum, agile, lean, and design thinking. 

Can traditional training fill this need?  It depends.  Demand is increasing for faster, more flexible, and more simple project management methodologies.    The era of cloud, data, analytics and AI, along with the cultural expectations of consumer culture is rapidly challenging traditional classroom learning.  I think this is a good thing … but I also think pure digital is not the answer.  Blended learning needs to bridge digital and in-person worlds of learning.  Digital tools and classroom experiences will help us to embrace, engage, and reference real world events and examples in ways that quickly reinforce learning through application. 

Regardless of how we acquire these skills, the bottom line is that, if organizations are serious about maximizing their performance, they must improve and mature those three drivers of success.  Training is one way to start weaving these skills into your work force and investing in success.  We need to act like the “champion” performers of PMI’s report, of whom 83% invest in ongoing project manager training!  Where does your organization place its priorities to ensure success??   If it is not in skill development, do you think it should be?

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