Although most people are involved to some extent in project management, very few of them really know anything about it. The IAPM International Association of Project Managers’ Network University hopes to change this by preparing career starters for project management roles in their future jobs. At the first IAPM University Network Meeting at Consors Bank in Nuremberg, experienced project management professionals explained what a project manager’s job is all about.
It takes the same time to build a Kwoxx as it takes to build a Quax out of multiple Kwoxx. Is that important? Eva Sadowicz, an organisational development consultant at EinfachStimmig, gave participants a cryptic task to perform. Each person was handed a little card with similarly coded information on it. Then, everyone had to put their heads together to find the information they needed to solve the puzzle. “It can definitely be done,” said Eva Sadowicz, dividing everyone up into three groups and sending them into separate rooms. It took around twenty minutes for the first group to come back and say, “I think we have to combine everyone’s information to solve this task.”
And with that insight, the first hurdle was overcome.
Much input, little time
In the whole group session, participants compared and sorted clues, discussed options, made calculations and rejected existing ideas for new ones. The clock was ticking, and Eva Sadowicz reminded everyone that time would be up soon. In the end, they did manage to solve the task. “We know quite a lot about methods, but when you’re working under time pressure, you tend to forget,” said Florian Wasmeier, who’s doing an MBA at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen/Nuremberg. His fellow students agreed. In the post-challenge discussion with Eva, they realised on hindsight that it would have been better to scrutinise the task more closely, divide it up more effectively and nominate a task leader. This exercise effectively proves something that the IAPM and the Network University are already aware of. Johannes Scholz, geography student and co-founder of the Metropolitan Area of Nuremberg’s Network University, commented, “Many young people lack the necessary awareness and knowledge because they have very few touchpoints with project management. We want to provide these touchpoints.” According to Scholz, this won’t just benefit the young people, but also future employers who are looking for qualified employees.
The right attitude is the key to success
Roland Knorr of Vectis Consulting would probably agree. He believes that the progressive digitalisation of all sectors is an opportunity to change our management culture. “The age of the egomaniac is drawing to a close,“ he announced, before going on to explain why. A digital leader doesn’t just need courage and determination, he also needs excellent social skills. But the manager’s role is to define the objective - not the roadmap to achieving it. According to Knorr, this can only work if the manager has a trusting relationship with his team, transfers responsibilities to them and acts as a role model by upholding the same values and virtues that he demands of them. The project manager’s leadership approach is decisive to the project’s success.
Reality is different – at least in some relevant large-scale German projects. Dr Roland Ottmann of Ottmann und Partner GmbH demonstrated that with the example of the new Berlin airport. The project isn’t just struggling as a result of disastrous planning mistakes, the wrong individuals were put in key management positions and important issues weren’t resolved in advance. One thing that Ottmann finds particularly shocking is that the same mistakes the Berlin project is making were already made in the eighties when London Stanstead Airport was built. “It proves that we don’t even bother to use the knowledge and experience gained in other similar large-scale projects. That’s tragic because a knowledge base was probably built, but not safeguarded. It wasn’t collated, condensed and documented for reference in future projects.” So all that experience is wasted, because it can never be used in future projects – and each new project has to start from scratch.
The IAPM Network University meeting participants, at least, intend to do things differently. “I’m currently doing a project management internship at a hospital, and I’ve taken a lot of things on board this evening,” said student Patricia Cziela. Max Meidenbauer, fitter and soon-to-be mechanical engineer, also knows how he’s going to use the things he learned at the event: “Next time I’m in a meeting, I know I’ll be filtering information and standing by my opinion.” That should please Eva Sadowicz, because it proves she got her message across.
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