A forum focused on opportunities for the project management profession to respond to challenges presented by Western Australia’s decline has revealed a fundamental gap between an organisational understanding of what a project is and what project managers do and the understanding held by project professionals.
The Western Australia Chapter of the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) addressed the state’s downturn and whether better project management was the answer in its forum ‘Western Australia in Decline – Project Management to the Rescue?’ last week. The panel featured voices from a range of industries, from architecture and town planning to engineering and government.
One panellist stated that often project failure is simply “the wrong project delivered well” and that organisations need to engage a project manager from the initial business case through to ‘cutting the ribbon’.
Another panellist brought up the issue of a lack of project maturity in departments that are running projects.
“For sponsor organisations, having your staff trained in even just the basics of project management would go a long way to ensure good support for project activities,” said Chris Carman, AIPM Western Australia Chapter President. “Once an organisation realises how important projects are to its success, it makes sense to invest in some form of project management education and also to recognise when external independent professional expertise should be engaged to supplement the owner’s team.”
A call for leadership
Panellists also discussed the role of leadership, “both leadership from the business owner or project sponsor and the leadership skills of the project manager,” said Carman. The key areas where leadership is required is in making the stakeholders the owners of the project and conducting transformational change.
“The panel identified the difference between leadership and management as one of the key areas that can make or break a project but they also say it can’t be taught, it needs to be developed, as it’s a combination of instinct, passion and experience,” Carman said.
One way it can be developed early is by giving real-world project experience to students as part of their curriculum and completion of qualifications, suggested another panellist, addressing the many graduates and undergraduates in attendance.
“It was heartening to see so many graduates and undergraduates at the forum considering this and the role of project management in the state’s recovery,” said Carman. “The future of project management is clear: we need greater maturity and better leadership and the time to start developing those is now.”