Best of PM Network 2007 – Master Plan

PMNetwork_Apr2007In the April 2007 edition of PM Network, this article struck a chord with me. A big frustration for me has been executives that fail to see or even look for value by way of project management maturity. I recently switched companies for this very reason, and am happy to now be with an organization that values project management as a formal discipline.

The article is mostly based off a study done by Gartner Inc., in Stamford CT, USA. One sad but true statistic stated that 20-30% of IT executives “have a ‘dismissive attitude’ toward project management”. Those are the same execs that suffer “from poor quality, late delivery and unrealistic project costs.” I can relate to this information from my personal experience, and would venture a guess that when you move into executives in operational areas, the dismissive attitude towards proper project management increases. The majority of IT execs seem to have seen the light and made the realization that there really is value to be delivered by well run projects by individuals who have the right skills to do so in a formal manner.

If I had to guess at a percentage, I would say that more like 40-50% of operational executives have a dismissive attitude towards formal project management, although the number seems to be decreasing. There are still a majority of director and above level people who seem to not perceive value in formal project management (at least in my experience). I see the trend towards realizing project management adds value as positive reinforcement for my decision to enter the discipline.

But I digress. Back to the article in PM Network, I found a few points insightful and worth sharing here. First, the report by Gartner classifies IT project managers in 4 categories:

  1. Novice – Some project experience, lacks formal training
  2. Apprentice – Some project experience, shows initiative towards managing projects, has sought out and attained some formal training, ready to manage a low-risk project.
  3. Journeyman – 2 years of project management experience or more, formal training in scope and risk management, advanced scheduling and best practices.
  4. Master – 5+ years successfully managing projects, usually PMP or other certification attained.

Only 15-20% of project managers are in the Master group. I would place myself either in the Journeyman category. I’ve had a good amount of formal training and several years of managing projects.

I feel the categories above are a bit tenuous, as I have met project managers who by the definition above would fit into the Master category, but do not display what I would refer to as Mastery skills in managing projects. The last box in the article goes into five characteristics of masters that I feel are much more accurate:

  1. Diplomacy – ability to manage the business relationships effectively
  2. Strategic Vision – ability to see the big picture and eliminate “silo paradigms”
  3. Policy Responsibility – seek process improvements and question existing policy constraints
  4. Collaboration – cross-functional leadership skills
  5. Risk Management – advanced risk management goes beyond a risk management plan checklist

I would like to add a few to this list:

  1. Effective Planning – see my previous post on Alpha Project Managers and how they spend twice as much time planning as non-alphas.
  2. Superior Communication – Again a reference to Alpha PM’s – This goes with diplomacy and collaboration, but everyone knows the successful project management comes mostly from excellent communication.
  3. Decisiveness – the ability to make tough decisions quickly and stick to your guns
  4. Conciseness – Long-winded “jargonology” is a sign of immaturity in my book. Masters speak on the client’s level, get to the point, and execute.

My kingdom for a comment.

Best of PM Network 2007 – Index

About the author

JoshNankivel Josh Nankivel is a Project Planning & Controls Control Account Manager and contractor for the ground system of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a joint project between the USGS and NASA. His academic background includes a BS in Project Management, summa cum laude.  He can be found writing and contributing in many places within the project management community, and his primary project management website is located at


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