Project Management Career Paths
Mark E. Mullaly has posted a great article over at Gantthead about the obstacles a project manager may face in moving up the corporate ladder. He states that, "The project manager is a role unto itself, with no entry point and no graceful exit."
The problem, as Mark describes it (registration required), is that the traditional project manager was simply someone who had a specific role in the corporation with the project management activities being treated like a side job. When the project manager was due for promotion it was tied to the PM's regular operational role. So a lead developer that was also doing project management work would be promoted to technical architect or perhaps a technical management position. At this point the project management responsibilities would disappear.
Now, the project manager is valued sufficiently in the corporation that it has become a role unto its own. As Mark puts it, "Project managers are hired primarily from the outside, and are assumed to come ready-made and pre-built with all of the skills necessary to do the job at hand, and do it well. Project managers aren't developed, they aren't groomed, and in many cases, they receive no training." The obvious result from this is huge turnover as interest fades in the role regardless of the successes that a PM may have and despite the value that business units may receive.
Mark offers some suggestions for organizations on how to reduce the turnover:
- Identify existing employees that are interested in the project manager role and also have the skills and knowledge to be good ones.
- Continually offer challenges that increase in difficulty. Like others, PMs need to be challenged to remain interested in their work. Eventually, dangling a bigger project won't be enough. Instead, look for other ways to motivate your project managers perhaps by putting them in to training or mentoring roles.
- Make sure that a path to the executive suite exists. If one doesn't, then expect the most senior and probably the most effective member of the PM team to walk away with all the company expertise acquired over the years.