Category Archives: career

The Value of Friendship

Insightful post from Havard Business Review on the value of friendships – spending money on others makes you happier than spending on yourself. More successful people at work tend to have more friends at work.

Book Review – Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership centers on the insight that how and what gets done is driven by groups and their culture and relationships.

This is a book that focuses on the emotional aspects of team (tribe) success, rather than strategy in the Michael Porter sense, or individual success in the Franklin Covey sense. The authors, Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright present the results of deep research on team cultures and present a rich model of the traits of highly successful tribes. Interestingly, most organizations fail to achieve real success because they can’t move beyond cultures of individual success, where one employee’s gain is another’s loss. In fact, some organizations don’t even achieve that accomplishment and resemble a Dilbert cartoon (incidentally, the authors interviewed Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist for the book). The individual success model is weak because it is naturally zero-sum, implicit in the success of one employee is the ‘defeat’ or lack of success of another. The individual success model may work to a limited degree, but doesn’t scale to the level of an organization as not everyone can be fulfilled. If a strong performer leaves, there is no guarantee of replacement, and by definition there will always be low performers, and the authors argue that even in the Jack Welch model of cutting the bottom 10%, employees will continually drop down the stack to replace them over time. Furthermore, there is no sustainable legacy or permanence created by individual achievement. Therefore, true success can only come through mutual trust, not trust that is earned over time, but assumed trust between employees and a shift to shared values that the tribe genuinely believes in and everyone embodies. This model enables success beyond the limits of individual attainment. Successful individuals hit the limitations of 24 hours in a day and their own skills and knowledge, but an effective tribe can leverage the group dynamic and moves from one-on-one relationships to team relationships, and the authors stress the roles of triads, individuals brokering relationships between two other people, rather than just forming relationships themselves.

As with many business books, a handful of fundamental insights are scattered across many pages, but the anecdotes and breadth of coverage from the Mafia to start-ups to the military are insightful. In addition, Tribal Leadership feels new and refreshing. Tribal Leadership moves beyond the paradigm of individual success and excellence (Franklin Covey, David Allen etc.) and really explores group dynamics in a way that makes sense. The attempt to create ‘strategic maps’ toward the end feels like too much of a stretch, but the book contains fresh insight that should give anyone who thinks seriously about their work environment and how they operate within it a chance to reflect.

Book Review – Rework

I just finished Rework, written by Jason Fried of the Chicago based software company 37 Signals. It took just over an hour to read, it shares concepts in a rapid fire fashion rather than using meatier chapters. It promises to offer new and innovative thinking, which is true to some extent. Ideas on process, planning, meetings and estimation aren’t completely new, but the writing is fresh and provocative. It’s not a book about project management, it’s a book about running a small business, but a lot of the ideas are generalizable to projects. Some of the writing on strategy is naive, for example the fact that famous chefs publish their recipes is taken as evidence that businesses should be more transparent in sharing their processes with customers, whilst that might be true for some industries, it’s not true for all. Generally this is an inisghtful and well written book, particularly if you own or want to own a small business. It is also remarkably short.

Project Management Salaries – Are You Paid Enough? Part 2

In a post last month, I discussed the drivers of project management salaries, based on statistical analysis. The summary of that research was that years of experience and management seniority were the only attributes that could be statistically shown to increase salary of project managers. So the conclusion was that if you want to earn more as a project manager, the best thing to do is to get into management.

Today, I’d like to broaden the analysis to look at skills that are specified on project management job postings in the US. These skills won’t necessarily earn you more money, but they will increase the range of possible jobs you are eligible for.

 Here I am focusing on skills that are verifiable. For example, a lot of job postings include vague terms such as “written and oral communication skills” or “attention to detail”, I don’t consider these verifiable skills, you may have them, but it’s hard to prove it either on a resume or in a job interview. I am not saying these skills aren’t important, just that they aren’t verifiable and so I exclude them from the analysis.

The chart below shows the percentage of project management roles in the US in March 2010 requiring particular verifiable skills. I’ve used the cut off point as 5%, because there were a number of ‘long tail’ skills (such as knowledge of SharePoint, Primavera or a CPA among many others) that were mentioned in some job postings, but didn’t exceed 5%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, an undergraduate degree was the number one required skill for a project management position. In fact, the number of jobs that need this may be greater than 54.4% because a number of the job listings were as short as a paragraph and likely omitted key requirements. Next on the list, is the PMP certification, as I mentioned before, I can’t prove that this will earn you more money, but it will open up significantly more jobs to you than if you don’t hold the qualification. After that “risk management” was the one skill that was cited frequently, more so that estimation, requirements management, budgeting, portfolio management and estimation that didn’t make the 5% cut, again perhaps due to poorly written job postings. Beyond that the focus on technology tools was interesting, with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Project mentioned in about 1 in 10 postings. Interestingly, SQL was listed in a significant portion of postings, for organizations that use databases in their project management process. Finally, the agile methodology was mentioned in about 1 in 20 postings. Many postings referred to awareness of project management tools and methodologies – but the language used was vague.

Conclusion – if you want to broaden your range of jobs as a project manager first get an undergraduate degree, then get a PMP. Finally, familiarize yourself with the basic technology tools.

A second (more anecdotal) conclusion, is that a number of job postings out there are poorly written and a call to the recruiter to a get a little more detail on the specifics might be worth it before sending in your resume.

Percentage of US project management positions requiring the skill specified

March 2010, publically advertized positions only

Project Management Salaries – Are You Paid Enough?

I recently performed a statistical analysis of project management salaries in the US. This analysis applies to publically listed full-time project management roles in January 2010.

The average salary for a project manager was $89,442, but more interesting was what drove the differences. Having a PMP certification was not statistically significant, nor were industry or sector differences. The two things that mattered were level of experience and the managerial rank of the position (whether it was for an individual contributor, a manager or a manager of managers). The implication is that general management skill is more relevant than project management skill in determining salary. The other point to note is that not all “experience” is created equal from a job application perspective, most positions listing experience wanted specific industry expertise, whether with specific software, power generation systems or government contracting methods. Again, these skills were not specific to the discipline of project management per se, but instead specific to the industry in which the project manager operates.