“It depends” is the common answer to most general questions posed on LinkedIn project management discussion groups. This is a valid response since projects are unique endeavours and what might work well within one situation may be the worst possible recommendation for another.
It is for this reason that Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule from Outliers might not always result in success in the project management field. Gladwell is not alone in using number of hours worked to try to quantify competency. PMI requires a minimum number of both education hours and experiential hours as eligibility criteria for candidates who wish to achieve one of their certification credentials.
Let’s consider the example of a project manager who has worked for the same department in the same company operating in the same industry managing projects of an extremely narrow range of variation. After 10,000 hours of experience have been gained, you could reasonably expect that this project manager would be quite capable at managing the same type of project, but lift and shift them from their comfort zone by asking them to manage a completely different type of project within the same department and organization and their success rate is likely to drop.
While this is an extreme example, a slightly more common one is the case of a project manager who works within a single organization managing different types of projects. Their versatility is certainly broader than the previous case, but even the act of moving them to a different organization in the same industry managing the same types of projects could impact their success rate. While they can manage a wider range of projects, they’ve still only been exposed to the culture, power structures and nuances of one organization.
I wrote a few weeks back about the benefits of leveraging a diverse group of team members when confronting uncertainty – the same is true about the range of one’s own experience.
These dimensions are just a few of the ones which should be considered:
- Type of projects – e.g. pure technology, business, construction
- Primary constraint – e.g. cost, schedule or scope
- Scale or size of projects
- Location of team members, sponsor & key stakeholders – e.g. co-located, locally dispersed, global
- Power structures – e.g. functional, matrix or projectized
Picking the dimensions which are the most applicable to your organization could enable you to develop a formula to quantify a project manager’s flexibility and adaptability.
Is a project manager with 10,000 hours of experience competent? It depends!