Can any PM run any project?

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director.

“Any PM can run any project.” This is simply not true. Anyone who asserts otherwise is either ignorant or horribly misinformed about what is necessary to run a project.

First, the statement addresses only the PM’s characteristics and ignores the project characteristics. But even if we focus on the PM’s characteristics, there are three kinds of domain knowledge: knowledge of the product of the project, knowledge of the project management practices (like preferential logic), and knowledge of the business context.

Knowledge of the product of the project is seldom required for the PM role even if organizational practices make it a requirement for the person-who-is-the-PM. The other two types of domain knowledge are far more likely to be relevant. And on any project of reasonably size and complexity, general management skills, specifically interpersonal skills, are far more important than any type of domain knowledge.

Second, some projects are inherently more complex either technically or managerially. A PM who has been successful managing the implementation phase of a small IT project using internal resources is likely to drown if asked to manage a politically sensitive EPC project with 12-15 contractors.

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