I have been thinking about UK project management as hundreds of project managers and other professionals descend upon London for the PMI EMEA Global Conference. I have been a project manager in France and here, and I have seen the discipline of project managing change over the past 15 years.
The perception of PM in the UK was changed dramatically by the 2012 Olympics. Before that, most of the stories about projects in the mainstream media focused on failure in the public sector. For examples and case studies of what was working, you had to look at industry press.
The Olympics proved to a large audience that the UK PM could deliver on time and tell great stories about what they were doing (I wrote about success of the Olympic Park project back then). It lifted the veil on private sector projects, and we now have more positive coverage about projects across the country. However, there are still challenges in the media as you would expect.
The Olympic learning legacy is also to be celebrated. It should be noted that it raised awareness about the importance of continuous innovation as well as the sharing of professional lessons. Read more about the learning legacy: APM did an excellent job of disseminating the lessons learned from the construction program right after the event.
All of this proves that British project management has reached maturity and is competent.
Fragmented representation is a challenge
The UK’s main problem today is its fragmented professional representation. There are a variety of recognized credentials, certificates and standards that are used across the country.
Delivery is not a conflict. A project is a job. Regardless of whether we use the exact same terminology, British project managers still do the job regardless of who they subscribe to.
However, it can make it difficult to move between jobs. It is possible that you don’t have the right qualification for your employer. If you are looking to move into other industries or to the public sector, you might need to obtain and pass another credential.
This also means that project management in the UK is not unified. It is difficult to see how we will lobby Parliament (if ever we wanted to) or gain national recognition.
I don’t think that this will change in the near future. Although I believe there is some progress towards collaboration between professional organizations for the benefit of members and the national voice, it’s slow. Based on what I have seen, the PM leadership is open to collaboration and that’s a great first step in the right direction.
One could argue that having a variety of options is a good thing. It makes the UK stand out from other countries that only have one set of credentials. We like to be different!
Recognition of the C-suite is a challenge
Like many countries, we struggle to get recognition from the C-suite for our work as project managers. It doesn’t feel like we have a critical mass of senior executives who understand the project environment and the link between strategy execution and project management.
This is partly because we are not able to communicate in business leaders’ language. Too much of our work is hidden behind jargon or methodology. Project managers don’t look smart when they use project management terminology to communicate with non-PM audiences. It makes them feel alienated.
Communication in the UK is changing
More UK companies are using social media and collaboration tools – although I cannot prove it, it feels like British businesses are catching up across all industries and realizing the importance of asynchronous work tools. More organizations want to move beyond email and into project workspaces that take advantage of flexible cloud technologies.
Collaboration tools and online communication