Hiring and fielding the right project or program manager has a huge impact on the success or failure of project work. Up to 40% of projects fail outright, and a good PM can help you to beat these dismal odds.
We need to own up to the fact that a lot of PM’s out there doing project work are ineffective and are increasing our project risk profile, not decreasing it. The trick to a good project management hire is finding the best match against certain skill sets known to affect project outcomes.
Ok, that’s obvious you say. Maybe, but we see a lot of projects adversely impacted by bad PM hires and we don’t think it is obvious at all. If it was, everyone would have good outcomes! Here are a couple of reasons why we think most PM hiring misses the mark:
There is an over-emphasis on certifications as a major decision criteria
The position can be viewed as administrative and not very impactful
There is a lack understanding of the attributes that improve project outcomes, so searches don’t focus on finding candidates who possess these qualifications
HR/Hiring personnel don’t screen candidates using a risk oriented approach
Could you list what attributes your PM should have that actually reduce your project risk profile and improve your chances of project success? Our guess is that you can’t, but we’re happy to share some of what we know about it.
In this blog and the next, we are going to take you through a process that vets candidates against your known project success criteria, and using this script should improve the quality of your hires and the performance of your projects.
We are pretty rigid about these attributes, so waive them at your peril!
Size and Complexity
Require candidates to have successfully completed at least one or more projects of comparable size and complexity to your project. Require some level of proof. Please note the phrases here, “successfully completed” and “comparable size and complexity.” We are trying to save you some time here; let novices train on someone else’s payroll. Prior experience reduces failure risk by a lot. Don’t waste time interviewing candidates that don’t have this.
Require candidates to possess a PM certification of some type, one that is well recognized in the industry and applicable to your project. But know this is only a prerequisite, or as Churchill would say, it is “the end of the beginning.” If you are an Agile organization, look for certs such as Certified Scrum Master (CSM), SAFe@3.0 or 4.0 SPC or ASM, or PMI-ACP, as examples.
PMI PMP and other PM certifications are positively correlated with better project outcomes. But the correlation in and of itself is not particularly strong, so this is not a decision point for a hire. It is a prerequisite. We speculate the weak correlation with certifications is because the entrance criteria for certifications is pretty low, so the presence of a certification tells you nothing about a candidate’s level of experience or application of the methods. We’ll figure that out later.
So if the correlation of certs to project success is not high, why require this? Because these certifications are proof of certain specific attributes that are highly desirable in a PM. They can speak the language of PM’s and they possess (or at least possessed at some point!) foundational knowledge. But most importantly, it demonstrates a desire for learning and the willingness to go through some aggravation to obtain certifications.
Next week, we will provide you with interview questions to further vet and rank your candidates on known risk reduction attributes.