Friday, July 03, 2009

The Face of Stupidity

At various times I have written about the "science" of project management, which claims vast increases in productivity and its new roots (mainly from the 1950's) but in fact compares unfavorably against many historical projects, such as this post on a railway built in Skagway, Alaska in a rapid fashion in a brutal climate over 100 years ago. This isn't to say that project management isn't important, or that it shouldn't be viewed as a critical skill set, but just to say that a proper historical perspective shows that project management has been around forever in various guises, even without mumbo-jumbo technical jargon created expressly for the field.

A recent article, with published photo, in the "PM Network", showed the extreme limits of someone swallowing the methodology hook, line and sinker. I kept the caption with the photo but here is the text:
Companies want specific industry or technical experience rather than project management experience, which surprises me.
Let's think about this astonishing statement, for a minute. When a company is hiring a candidate for projects, and they have multiple candidates to choose from (which is pretty much the norm with today's economy), why WOULDN'T they look for someone from their industry (say, energy), with a specific technical capability (perhaps engineering), along with project management experience.

Project management expertise is mostly a social skill (ability to communicate, lead) along with some tools (planning diagrams, checklists, budgets, and an overall plan) that can be picked up and refined over the years. However, specific industry skills often take years or decades to hone, and technical expertise is often acquired through college or through dedicated programs with direct experience.

The fact that this project manager felt he could just walk in the door at a company and pick up their entire industry and the technical nature of the project as an afterthought is just striking. This shows how desperate companies must have been for talent during the booming economic years - because this model of hiring and planning is clearly less efficient than finding someone with project management expertise AND technical and industry skills appropriate to the job.

I am not trying to "pick on" this guy - many people are out of work today through no fault of their own and the job market now is extremely difficult, or nearly even frozen. I am just surprised that he would say out loud that he is SURPRISED that companies would look for a candidate who had deeper and more relevant expertise and wasn't just a "generic" project manager.

Maybe "the face of stupidity" is too harsh, but at least "the face of naivete" or perhaps "a clear sign at how desperate managers were to hire staff in the last economic boom".

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

1 comment:

Carl from Chicago said...

there is a funny comment thread on this over at chicago boyz if you are interested