Demoautocratic Management Style Needed In Project Management

In project management there is a mixed method management style required. A balance between being democratic and being autocratic is necessary to keep complex projects running smoothly, within budget and on time. Mr Klaus Pannenbacker, ex-president of the IPMA and founder of the GPM and Wessel Pieters from Association for Project Management South Africa shares their views on this topic with us.

Mr Klaus Pannenbacker coined the phrase demoautocratic management style. “This is relevant to all management positions,” says Pannenbacker. “A true manager is somebody that manages according to project management principles”. Pannenbacker, who started off as an electrical engineer, shares a dream with Wessel Pieters to increase project management knowledge and experience and improve attitudes towards project management, especially amongst those who have the necessary talent and aptitude. “While IPMA and APMSA offer project management training and certification, we have found a wayto test people for attitude and aptitude before training and certifying them. It is no good taking somebody’s money if they do not have the talent to be a good project manager,” states Pannenbacker.

Project management is a discipline that is continuously evolving and therefore training can easily fail. It is important for a trainer to identify the gaps in the project management skills and adjust the training to fill these gaps. This has to be done diplomatically as typically a project management learner is an older person, normally between 35 and 55, who can easily feel offended if you show them gaps in their skills and knowledge. In South Africa, on average, project managers are above 45 years of age.

Project management is not just education, where somebody is taught something he or she knows nothing about. It also involves training where a person with the correct education is taught how to do things practically. Both education and training is required in project management skills development. Coaching is also an important aspect as the coach will take the educated and trained person and point him or her in the right direction until they have enough experience to run complicated projectssuccessfully. “The vision for IPMA and APMSA is to move more into consulting and coaching than just training,” says Pieters.

Currently there is much more awareness about project management in the field and the demand is growing. There are approximately 200 000 IPMA certified members globally, of which 25000 are in Germany. There are four levels of certification and certified members are equipped to run any project. Being certified will assist a project manager with career planning and certification will make the project manager an attractive prospect for any employer.

“The complication about project management is that there is very little routine in the life of a project manager. Each and every project entails different resources, environment, size, levels of complexity and culture. In fact, each project is unique and operates in a completely different environment. Therefore it is a challenge for managers to standardise the level of project management globally,” says Pannenbacker. “The ultimate is for project management to be built into the strategy of a company. Projects fill the entire world. Even at school level learners should be taught to manage school work as projects. Human beings intuitively know how to manage projects, yet globally companies invest heavily in project management training. These skills should be developed at school level and the world will be a much more organised place”.

“It is a great way to remain motivated,” concurs Pieters. “When you know there is an end to the specific project it is much easier to find the self-discipline to push through. When things become routine it is much easier to become bored and de-motivated”. Pieters goes as far as saying that it is the project management skill that differentiates rich from poor countries. If we look at Africa, they have a lot of mineral and human resources and there is good economic activity, but it is project management skill that is lacking. “The ability to create wealth lies in project management. Project management started as early as when the pyramids were builtin Egypt.”

In South Africa APMSA also has a programme to train assessors. Part of the certification is a one day workshop where learners have to comeup with a plan to run a project. Various groups are in competition. “It is amazing to see how everybody has the same motivational aspects and the same teacher, yet the results are so different,” says Pannenbacker. “The project manager sets the order of the project and takes authority.”

The more educated and experienced s/he is, the easier it will be to take control, but that ability to balance being democratic, sourcing and accepting input from team members and making an autocratic call when the project depends on strong and decisive leadership remains an art form that only the well trained, experienced and mature project leader or manager can develop. “That is the level we are striving towards through our vision of enhancing project management skill in South Africa,” declares Pieters.