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Grooming the Apprentice Project Manager

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How many of your project team members aspire to become project managers? Do you see promise in some of them for this role? How can you impart some of your knowledge and skills to help them be successful?

There are elements of project management in everything that we do. It's your responsibility as the team leader or project manager to point this out to your team members and guide them to see the connections.

A programmer might manage her time and communication, while also helping to develop a module, for example. A junior analyst may manage budget and scope while discussing the change request with the client. Show your team members how the tasks they are performing are also project management practices.

This way, team members can appreciate that the work that they are doing is impacting the project as a whole. If team morale is often low, perhaps members don't see the significance of their work. You can help change their perspective by coaching them to view their contributions differently. 

Not all of your team members will appreciate your efforts. Some of them will feel that it's an interruption of their productive time or that you're meddling in the actual work being done. But by showing the team members how their tasks relate to project management, they will see that project management is present in everything that we do.

And who knows? That skeptical team member could become your organization's next high performing project manager -- thanks to you.

What do you think? Are project team members already performing some tasks of a project manager? How do you coach your team members to become good project managers? 


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I do agree with the questions raised here. The PMP exam makes a lot of difference in the input of project managers.

So what are the thoughts on a wholesale training project managers to get their PMP as a baseline set of skills?

It is quite an investment by a company to sponsor a team of project managers for their PMP. I understand the arguments about "it's just a certificate," but isn't there a certain expectation of skills that come w/a PMP?

It's the experience/application and effectiveness that can't be "bought" - they have to be learned and taught. Does anyone know of a company who successfully sponsored a team of project managers to be PMP and saw significant improvement in project execution?

Editor’s Note:
The PMP® certification demonstrates that you have the experience, education and competency to successfully lead and direct projects. Unlike certifications that only test knowledge, the PMP is a role-based credential that recognizes that you have the experience, education and competency to successfully lead and direct projects.

According to a 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 80% of high-performing projects use a credentialed project manager. The 2010 Pulse of the Profession study also found that organizations with more than 35% PMP certified project managers had better project performance.

Hi Catherine,

Thanks for your feedback.

I agree that a certification or a degree does not make you a better manager/leader.

But it can be a basis towards improvement if the person uses the knowledge that he/she receives correctly. Any knowledge that we acquire does not correlate directly or correctly with real life situation. It is up to us to modify and suit the knowledge to the world around us.

Whatever that we learn becomes the base, however small. We have to develop the potential ourselves.

I would love to hear your opinion in developing your team members potential. We could learn so much from each other through knowledge sharing, don't you think so?

Editor's reply:

The certification that recognizes the advanced experience and skill of a program manager is the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® certification (http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PgMP.aspx). This role is distinct from that of a project manager.

The PgMP Role Delineation Study, conducted by a third party independent of PMI, analyzes on a global basis the real-world responsibilities expected of the program manager. See page 6 of the PgMP Handbook (http://www.pmi.org/Certification/~/media/PDF/Certifications/pdc_pgmphandbook.ashx) for more information on the program manager role.

The Standard for Program Management (http://www.pmi.org/PMBOK-Guide-and-Standards/Standards-Library-of-PMI-Global-Standards.aspx) may also be of interest.

Blogger Roger Chou says that “program managers can be an organization’s top salespeople. “ You may like to see his post on that topic. (http://blogs.pmi.org/blog/voices_on_project_management/2011/06/program-managers-can-be-an-org.html)

The PMP is irrelevant regarding what is happening in real life. Most people want to become Program Manager to make money. Although, due to the economy today, Program Manager do not make much versus what they have to endure.

What is never brought up in Program Management is the Marketing aspect. In order to sell your product, you have to market your product as well.

If you believe that the PMP builds a Program Manager or provides the basis for a Program Manager, that is not correct.

There are so many contradiction in the PMP, it is unrealistic. Due to the fact, it is only a business and gives you another title to put on your wall, that does not make you a good Program Manager.

Hello Hajar,

A very nice article and a perfect approach for bringing the team members aligned to project objectives as well as motivating them.

This is one of the biggest challenges in a team. They feel they are in the office to do just development and rest of the management of effort, schedule, quality and risk is responsibility of Project Manager.

But if we start educating them their role as Project Manager in their activities, I am sure that they will do value add to the project as well feel motivated.

But we need to be cautious as well for the percentage of efforts they need to put for these activities. Sometimes, team members start putting considerable efforts just for management activities and loose focus of the real task.

We also need to plan for proper basic project management training to all of them.

Thank you all for your feedback.

I am a believer that a PM not only has to manage the team, but also has to coach the team. At the same time, PM must allow the team to grow at their own pace, according to their interest.

Some team members like the idea that the job that they are doing is like a manager, but they do not want to have actual responsibilities as a manager. Some are eager to become managers themselves! End of the day, it's really how we recognise the talents and where they can perform the best!

Hi Henry,

Thanks for your feedback.

I agree Hajar.

I find that most staff are happy to learn that what they're doing on a daily basis correlates strongly to project management, and they are interested in some additional formal PM training or mentoring.

To this end, I like to supply them with some continued personal coaching, access to light PM training material, and strong encouragement to think seriously about becoming PMP certified.

When we think through all of the hours of project management tasks they have performed on countless initiatives, it becomes all the more apparent that they are well on their way to becoming formal project managers. - Jonathan Weisglass

In this case, the characteristics of leadership from a Project Manager will be important to define strategies for preparing future project managers. I believe that participative leadership is a good mechanism to identify new talent.

Hi Hajar,

I agree that all project team members are learning and demonstrating PM skills, tools and techniques.

As to whether it is our responsibility to point out those links, I would say that depends on the learning and development aspirations of individuals.

I coach, mentor and train project managers and aspiring project managers. Some of them will be a huge success, others will find other careers to follow. The defining factors tend to be individuals who are interested in the science and art of delivering change.

A friend of mine recently decided upon a career change and studied for three years to gain access to a medical university and to train to become a doctor. At his interview he was asked why he wanted to become a doctor and he replied, 'because I want to help people.' The professor then told him that his application had failed but perhaps he should go into nursing. What the professor was looking for was someone with an interest in medicine.

As for my approach to grooming, as you put it, I feel strongly that it is my role to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of success. Provide the links, provide the skills, stand back, catch them if they fall but don't get in the way.

Nice topic,

This article is so true. I used to groom my financial software product support staff almost the same way. It is important that they begin to think like the manager does. It adds cohesiveness to the department.

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