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Project management careers are increasingly promoted, and a McKinsey survey lists project management skills, along with leadership and managing others, as well as critical thinking and decision making, as the skills that companies are increasingly focussed on.

Before you ask how to become a project manager, you may wonder whether project management is the right career for you. So, how do you know whether you should become a project manager?

Before we discuss the characteristics of successful project managers, it is important to note that you need not meet all the characteristics to venture into a project management career. The characteristics and skills required by project managers depend to a large extent on the complexity of the projects managed, and project managers typically start their careers on less complex projects. Furthermore, the ideal project manager does not exist – and even the most successful project managers who manage major projects do not fully meet every single requirement.

Only if you prefer a routine job to dynamic situations where you have to venture into the unknown, should you discard the idea of a project management career.
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Globally, businesses are increasingly becoming more project based. According to Dr Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez in Harvard Business Review December 2021 [ ], by 2027, some 88 million people around the world are likely to be working in project management and the value of project-oriented economic activity will have reached $20 trillion.

In 2018, the PMI (Project Management Institute) estimated that annually, about 1 570 000 new project management jobs were being created and that there simply were not enough project managers to fill these positions. [ ]. Since then, governments have promised trillions of dollars for pandemic recovery and these will require millions of projects that will require millions of project managers. Add to this the projects required to recover from earth quakes and wars, and it is clear that a staggering number of project managers will be required.

But research shows that only 35% of the projects undertaken worldwide are successful—which means we’re wasting an extravagant amount of time, money, and opportunity. The solution obviously lies in more project managers that are properly trained.
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Project management is the fastest growing form of management in the world. “Over the next ten years, the need for project managers will expand faster than the demand for workers in other occupations. According to a recent talent gap analysis conducted by Anderson Economic Group (AEG), there are excellent job opportunities and career growth for project managers in the 11 countries studied: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2017). The project management-oriented workforce is predicted to rise by 33%, or almost 22 million new employments, by 2027, in seven project-oriented industries.”  explained Dr Taryn Bond-Barnard.
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Through the ages, mankind undertook many different kinds of projects. Ancient projects typically involved construction and resulted in structures such as the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and cathedrals in Europe. In modern times man continued to build physical structures such as buildings, roads, bridges and railway systems and also developed a vast range of products such as motor cars and electronic equipment and even undertook space travel. All these endeavours involved projects.

Project management developed in the engineering industry and is still part-and-parcel of the work of most engineers in all parts of the world. The construction industry, aerospace and defence industries contributed significantly to the develop­ment of this discipline. However, project management also proved to be very effective in many other situations where change and uncertainty prevail. The result is that, during the last number of decades, project management has found wide application outside the engineering profession.
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The reward of sound project management is, first of all, a satisfied customer. The customer could be some external organisation or a senior manager within your own organisation who requested the work to be done. You could also be the customer of your own project, for example, when you are renovating your house.

For contractors a successful project is often rewarded by increased future business and an improved market share.

For the project manager, a successful project brings the satisfaction of having led a successful effort, an improved reputation and, possibly, improved career prospects.

Too much specialisation is sometimes risky for one’s career: if the need for a specialised skill decreases, a specialist might have to start a different career from a lower level, or he or she might face unemployment.
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Management in general is often described as planning, organizing, leading and control. Project management draws heavily on general management and utilises many of the principles of general management. However, project management differs from general and other types of management to allow focus on schedule, budget and quality of the deliverables, to deal with the complexity inherent to projects and to provide the flexibility required by projects.

Effective project management not only necessitates the use of the powerful tools and techniques that have been developed, but also requires a disciplined team and first-rate leadership on the part of the project manager.

An important difference between project management and other forms of management is that a project has a definite start and a well-defined end. That necessitates project initiation and project closure.
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On the ligther side of Project Management...

Project Manager Blues
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Project managers have been known as prima donnas: Dynamic, assertive people who understood the art of sticking to tight schedules and budgets. While projects still attract energetic people who like challenges and diverse work experiences, the prima donna status of project managers is gradually changing and their role demystified as project management becomes an established vocation and as companies increasingly develop standardized methodologies for managing projects.

When the term ‘project management’ was coined in the 1950s the emphasis was entirely on scheduling, budgeting and control. In 1981 when, as a young engineering manager, I first studied project management at the University of Pretoria, the emphasis was still to a large extent on scheduling, budgeting, control and project information systems (that ran on main- frame computers).
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The PPM is recognized by the following:

  1. PMI (Project Management Institute) – USA and Globally
  2. ECSA (Engineering Council of SA)
  3. SACPCMP (South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions)
  4. SACNASP (South African Council for Natural Scientific Professionals)
  5. PMSA (Project Management South Africa)

On successful completion of the PPM, suitable candidates may be eligible to apply for the professional designation of Project Manager (PM) conferred by Project Management South Africa (PMSA). PMSA is the SAQA recognized professional body representing the interests of project managers across sectors.

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Prof Herman Steyn

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