By Craig Langston, Professor of Construction and Facilities Management
Project managers are organised, passionate and goal-oriented people who understand their strategic role in how organisations succeed, learn and adapt. They make things happen by using their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose in the teams they lead. They enjoy the adrenaline rush of new challenges and the responsibility of driving business results, often working under pressure in complex and dynamic environments.
Projects have now become primary vehicles of change, unlocking benefits in the process through effective technical, tactical and strategic decisions. This integrated approach is known as ‘projectised’ decision-making. Technical decisions relate to schedule, cost and resource management. Tactical decisions relate to scope, quality and procurement management. Strategic decisions relate to communications, risk and stakeholder management.
Project managers cultivate the people skills needed to develop trust and communication among project stakeholders. They possess a broad and flexible toolkit of techniques and adapt their approach to the ‘big picture’ context and constraints of each project. They can be found in every kind of industry sector or business and they are in increasing demand worldwide.
For decades, as the pace of economic and technological change has quickened, organisations have been directing more and more of their energy into projects rather than routine operations.
Today, senior executives recognise project management as a strategic competence that is indispensable to business success. They know that skilled and credentialed practitioners are among their most valuable resources.
I advocate a career in projectised decision-making. In my opinion, such a career has few boundaries. Many project managers like to limit themselves to the same sort of projects and perform similar roles year on year. Why is this so? Perhaps it is because we prefer to work in an industry that we know a lot about already. We then fail to recognise our capabilities have much broader application and what we may not have in terms of technical knowledge we more than make up for in organisational and leadership skills.
Becoming a project manager
In the past, a career in project management was often accidental. As a capable and safe pair of hands, opportunities may arise unexpectedly that require your help. Over time, and with hard work and dedication, you might attain more senior roles and greater responsibilities. In many cases, this may have begun with an unrelated tertiary education or even just job experience.
According to PMI’s global Directory of Accredited Programs, there are 127 choices to pursue a tertiary education in project management. Most are taught at postgraduate level, but 17% are bachelor degrees. Just over half are offered by North American institutions, and 50% are delivered as either fully online or hybrid options. Australia has 13 accredited courses: just two of them are available as generic bachelor degrees.
The skills to stand out
Recruiting the best and brightest people straight from university is necessary for the potential of the profession to be fully realised. A new generation of problem-solvers is required. Armed with the tools to make effective technical, tactical and strategic decisions, these new recruits will be able to find work anywhere in the world, in any industry, and demand good salaries. They will work closely with business leaders, entrepreneurs, disrupters and change-agents to bring ideas to life.
Project managers are people who can deliver change.
We live in world of change and disruption. We face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, national security, elusive prosperity, tariff wars, increased numbers of refugees, and technological transformation. Solutions to these challenges increasingly take the form of projects and programs. These have to be managed so to ensure that anticipated benefits, embodying economic, social, political and environmental impacts, are successfully realised.
Project management is now a global profession where a broad range of career specialisations await those with a curiosity for new ideas. It requires a well-balanced education. You need to know about a lot of things, but key is how to make effective decisions. These are not limited to implementation of change initiatives, but also include the creation of ideas, innovation and market testing, entrepreneurial spirit and an appreciation of ‘customer’ satisfaction (or what I like to to call change reaction).
Here are some examples of initiatives that require projectised decision-making skills:
- launching an exciting new product range
- building an online bank
- developing infrastructure to support electrical vehicle changing in Australia
- conserving a local koala habitat
- running a domestic violence awareness campaign
- restoring a rundown heritage precinct
- organising a fun run to raise money for sick children
- sending a manned expedition to Mars
There really is no limit to what a project manager can do. All that is needed are technical, tactical and strategic decision-making skills, some confidence, curiosity, and a solid understanding of the context within which projects happen.
Opportunities are limitless
As at 20 August 2019 (10:00am AEST), a search of available full-time jobs for ‘project manager’ in Australia via seek.com.au retrieved 26,837 results, with 58.8% paying salaries in excess of A$100,000. Run your own test and see the diverse range of career opportunities that await you. Popular start-up roles for Bond graduates are junior/assistant project manager, trainee program manager, project coordinator, and project administrator. Career progression includes project manager, project innovator, program manager, business analyst, design thinker, change-agent, entrepreneur, Agile coach, and product manager.
Bond University is launching a new Bachelor of Project Management degree in January 2020. It produces graduates who can find work in any industry sector, and for the first time in Queensland, provides a direct career path from school to professional certification as a project manager. Graduates can articulate to our new Master of Project Innovation and complete these advanced studies part-time whilst working full-time.