Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to activities in order to meet stakeholder’s expectations, says Marco Sampietro, professor, SDA Bocconi in a chat with Patricia Mascarenhas.
Q1: What is the importance of project management (PM)? Is there a demand?
Nowadays project management has become strategic for many companies. The reason is quite simple; companies perform ‘processes’ and ‘projects’. Example, in a car manufacturing company, assembling cars is the main ‘process; while developing a new car is a ‘project’. In general, processes are repetitive (we want all cars with the same quality) and increasing their efficiency is fundamental for the company’s financial well-being (if the cost of producing the car is higher than the market price the company will lose money). On the contrary, projects are mainly unique (we do not develop the same car twice) and effectiveness is more important than efficiency. Currently companies are asked to innovate their products and service more frequently than in the past. The implementation of these requests happens through projects. Managing projects in the best way is thus a fundamental asset that companies should have in order to be competitive.
Q2. What are skills project management team members should have? What are the behaviors that they should adopt to be successful in a project environment?
Team members should have skills related to their subject area (i.e. a person who has to test a software must know how to) and other relevant skills that are a kind of subset of “traditional” project management skills. From a behavioral perspective, team members should have: global vision, openness, ethics, initiative adaptability and influence.
Q4. What are the tools to improve project performance while increasing personal satisfaction?
The application of the above mentioned skills and behaviors on one hand increases project performance and on the other hand increases the personal satisfaction. It has been shown that the correct application of project management principles improve the project performance. If the whole team is aligned on those principles, benefits can be even better.
Q5. Should project management be formally taught in our school systems, or just integrated into teaching methods?
Project management is not only useful in business environments but also in everyday life. For example taking a diploma, getting married, renovating a house are all examples of projects. Given the ubiquity of projects, project management should be part of every student curriculum. The way to introduce project management can be different depending on the age and the specialisation. For example, for young people the behavioral part can be more suitable while older students involved in technical disciplines may be equally interested also in the application of project management methodologies. For this reason project management can be introduced in the school systems in different ways: integrated in the teaching methods in order to provide a “project oriented mindset” to students while it can be a formal course if specific methodologies have to be addressed.
Q6: You recently published a book ‘Empowering Project Teams: Using Project Followership to Improve Performance’ Tell us about it?
This book is targeted to team members. The title summarizes the main ideas behind the book: on one hand team members with the right project management competencies can improve their level of involvement and satisfaction; on the other hand project team members do not need traditional project management competencies but something that is more targeted to their needs. We called this body of knowledge Project Followership.